Democratic Staffer Gets 4 Years In Prison For Doxing GOP Senators
Washington, DC – A former Democratic aide who tried to disrupt U.S. Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s confirmation by doxing Republican senators was sentenced to four years in prison on Wednesday.
Jackson Cosko, 27, pleaded guilty to five felonies in April, Politico reported.
Cosko admitted that after he was fired from U.S. Senator Maggie Hassan’s (D-New Hampshire) office, he used a former colleague’s keys and computer system log-in information to install spy software and to access and steal a massive amount of data from U.S. Senate computer systems.
He also admitted that he used the stolen personal information about some senators to dox them on Wikipedia, releasing home addresses and phone numbers of the high-profile legislators because he was angry about how they were handling Kavanaugh’s confirmation hearings.
U.S. District Court Judge Thomas Hogan said Cosko’s sentence was meant to send a message that criminal harassment inspired by political motives would face serious punishment, according to Politico.
“We have… a society that has become very vicious,” Hogan said. “It’s very concerning to the court and unfortunate that you played into that.”
U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) submitted a victim impact statement at the sentencing that said that incident had caused fear to him and his family, Politico reported.
Cosko was busted for his illegal activities after a former co-worker spotted him in Hassan’s office, using a computer, late at night after he had been fired.
Police said he accessed the computer using another staffer’s login information.
After he was seen using a computer on Oct. 2, 2018, Cosko left the office building at 10:21 p.m. and headed toward Union Station, according to surveillance video.
Later, he sent a threatening email to the Hassan staffer who caught him, WTOP reported. The staffer contacted the police about the threat.
An affidavit from U.S. Capitol Police Captain Jason Bell said the subject line of Cosko’s email carried the header “I own EVERYTHING.”
“If you tell anyone I will leak it all. Emails signal conversations gmails. Senators children’s health information and socials,” the email read, according to charging documents.
“Signal conversations” refers to a messaging application. “Socials” refers to the children’s social security numbers, authorities said.
“It was a rather vicious offense,” Hogan said at Cosko’s sentencing. “That was totally unjustified….We need to send a message out there. We need to have some deterrent and community understanding.”
Cosko was arrested and charged with five federal offenses and two crimes in the District of Columbia, WTOP reported.
Federal charges included making public restricted personal information, making threats in interstate commerce, unauthorized access of a government computer, identity theft, and obstruction of justice/witness tampering.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia released a statement that said Cosko had also been charged with second-degree burglary and unlawful entry, WTOP reported.
Cosko was employed by U.S. Representative Sheila Jackson Lee (D-Texas) when he committed the alleged crimes. Jackson Lee is a staunch opponent of Kavanaugh’s nomination.
Jackson Lee’s office told FOX News that Cosko had only been employed by their congressional office for a few months, but that he had been terminated after he was accused of doxxing.
Jackson Lee’s chief of staff, Glenn Rushing, called the incident “unfortunate” and told FOX News that Cosko’s former employer’s office was cooperating with law enforcement.
Before he worked for Hassan, Cosko also worked for U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer (D-California) and U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein (D-California), who is the minority leader of the committee to whom the doxxed senators belonged.
A website that tracks lawmakers and Capitol Hill staffers reported that Cosko was employed by Hassan from January of 2017 until May of 2018 as a legislative correspondent/systems administrator, CBS News reported.
A spokesman for Hassan’s office told The Washington Times that Cosko was asked to resign “for failing to follow office procedures.” However, they said they did not see him as a “risk.”
Cosko described himself as a "Democratic Political Professional & Cybersecurity Graduate Student” on his LinkedIn page, according to FOX News.
Prosecutors had sought a 57-month sentence for Cosko for what they called “the largest data breach in Senate history” while the defense had asked the judge to restrict the prison time to two years, Politico reported.
“These are deliberate and malicious crimes that the defendant engaged in,” prosecutor Demian Ahn said.
Ahn accused Cosko of a “months-long, deliberately planned, meticulously executed crime spree.”
Cosko apologized to the court for his actions and blamed substance abuse and mental health issues, according to Politico.
A second former aide to Hassan was facing charges for her involvement in Cosko’s scheme on Wednesday, FOX News reported.
Court documents accused Samantha Deforest Davis of helping Cosko to accomplish his nefarious plans.
Prosecutors said Cosko convinced Davis to wipe down the computer keyboards on the computer he had hacked in Hassan’s office so his fingerprints wouldn’t be found, according to FOX News.
She is now facing a federal count of aiding and abetting computer fraud and a District of Columbia count of attempted evidence tampering.