*Updated: See Editor’s Note Below*
Someone hacked into Delegate Stacey Plaskett’s (D-VI) personal computer, stealing highly personal photos and videos and illegally posting them online.
The postings, which were taken down, were reported in several outlets, including the political news magazine Politico. Reportedly among the images were a topless photo of the delegate and a personal moment with her husband.
Plaskett, her V.I. Democratic Party primary opponent, former V.I. Sen. Ronald Russell and former Delegate Donna Christensen all condemned the illegal, invasive hacking of Plaskett’s computer and the posting of private photos.
The V.I. Republican Party candidate for delegate to Congress, internet service entrepreneur Gordon Ackley, issued a statement condemning Plaskett rather than the hacker. The website V.I. Consortium also printed an article that appeared to condemn Plaskett, by providing detailed descriptions of the private content and suggesting it reflects upon Plaskett’s parenting.
“The theft and distribution of these personal images via the internet marks a new low in Virgin Islands politics. I am shocked and deeply saddened that someone would stoop to such a level as to invade my marriage and the love of my family in an attempt to besmirch me politically,” Plaskett said in a statement.
“Private photographs shared between my husband and me, as well as a private playful video of our family, including one of our children, were illegally obtained and disseminated via the internet. To say my family and I are greatly upset would be a tremendous understatement. As a mother I am outraged that one of my children was exploited in such a way. The theft and dissemination of these images via the internet is a shockingly disgusting invasion of my family’s and my privacy – not to mention criminal acts in violation of both territorial and federal law,” Plaskett said.
“Our office is currently working with the Capitol Police and the FBI and I can confirm that an active investigation is underway to find out who committed this crime and anyone else who may have been involved” Plaskett Chief of Staff Jerome Murray said.
“This incident shows that there are some people who will go to any length to degrade a woman who refuses to play their games and will try to besmirch my good name by any means necessary. I have a message for the criminals who perpetrated these heinous acts: I will not go away. I know the people of our Virgin Islands are disgusted by individuals who would try to destroy families for political gain. I ask Virgin Islanders to stand with me as the authorities continue to investigate this matter,” Plaskett added.
This occurred suspiciously close to the V.I. Democratic Party primary, scheduled for Aug. 6.
Russell, Plaskett’s primary opponent, condemned the hacking and release of Plaskett’s personal files and denied any involvement.
"I personally have never seen this video. However, I absolutely condemn this act. Unfortunately, we have become a voyeuristic society, where things that are done in private are released willy nilly on social media, with no sense of modesty. … Neither me nor my campaign have anything to do with the release of this or any other video,” Russell said.
Russell served several terms as a V.I. legislator and was president of the Legislature from 2011-2013.
"My grandmother raised me to have integrity and to always do the right thing. I would never disappoint her by stooping to such levels simply to win an election. My campaign is an issue-focused campaign; and those issues are discussed in my radio spots and on my social media sites. This is simply a huge distraction from the very serious issues facing this community," Russell said.
Former Delegate Donna Christensen also condemned it.
"Please do not be distracted by what I consider an egregious act. Judge Delegate Plaskett on her work and service and not on the malicious, and possibly criminal, attack of a malcontent," Christensen said in a statement. Christensen served nine terms as delegate to Congress.
Gordon Ackley, who is running for delegate as a Republican, denounced Plaskett rather than the hacker.
"It is deeply unfortunate when those entrusted to serve our community engage in a manner that poorly reflects up on the Virgin Islands," Ackley said in a statement. "I have always tried to conduct myself in an honorable manner and to provide a positive influence for the next generation of Virgin Islanders."
Ackley is chief executive officer of Ackley Communications. The company owns a network of cell towers in the USVI and provides internet, phone and data services. According to Ackley’s biography on his website, he was trained in electronic warfare, communications and navigation while in the U.S. Air Force. He says he started an array of computer and internet related companies in the USVI, including Computer World and internet provider VIAccess, before starting his current internet broadband service operation. He also owns two USVI and three BVI radio stations, along with Pirate’s Cove Marina in St. Thomas.
Editor’s Note: This article has been changed to remove a reference to gossip in relation to the V.I. Consortium, to change a reference to "an editorial" to "an article," and "condemned Plaskett" to "appeared to condemn Plaskett by providing detailed descriptions of the private content and suggesting it reflects upon Plaskett’s parenting."