VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — A staffer who worked on former Congressman Scott Taylor's 2018 re-election campaign has pleaded guilty to "willful neglect of election duty" over improperly gathered petition signatures.
Taylor was the incumbent Republican who lost the 2nd Congressional District seat to Democrat Elaine Luria in 2018. Questions arose about efforts of Taylor's campaign to get independent candidate Shaun Brown on the ballot.
According to court documents, Taylor and other campaign leaders instructed staffers to get signatures and help Brown qualify for the ballot in hopes of splitting the vote between Brown and now-Representative Elaine Luria.
An ongoing investigation has resulted in one of Taylor's staffers, Lauren Creekmore Peabody, being charged with election fraud.
On Tuesday, Peabody pleaded guilty to a reduced misdemeanor charge. She was fined $1,000, ordered to pay court costs, and given a 12-month suspended sentence based on a year of good behavior.
She admitted to signing off on petitions she didn't witness, but according to her attorney, John Fletcher, "Ms. Peabody had no involvement whatsoever in the forging of voter’s signatures, and has never been accused of that."
A 13News Now Investigation revealed petition signatures included the names of deceased voters and people who moved out of Virginia years earlier.
Fletcher called Tuesday's plea to a reduced charge a fair resolution.
The Roanoke Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney, John Beamer, was in court Tuesday as part of the prosecution. According to Beamer, the investigation into the Taylor campaign petition scandal remains active and we're "likely to see more" indictments and legal action in the future.
Taylor has previously said that he has been exonerated by the investigation, but Beamer cautioned, "Those are his words. We did not say that. I'd refer back to our previous statement."
Taylor is currently running for the GOP nomination to again take on Luria for the 2nd District seat in November.