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Scott Taylor, Democrats feud online after first indictments released in petition scandal

Former U.S. Rep. Scott Taylor claims vindication and says he's "exploring legal options" while democrats say he continues to refuse to take responsibility for his staff's actions

VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. — After the first charges were filed in the petition scandal that rocked November's second congressional district election, former Congressman Scott Taylor and Democratic organizations are feuding about intent and future ramifications.

On Monday, a grand jury indicted Lauren Creekmore Peabody, a former Taylor campaign staffer, on two counts of election fraud. The Virginia Beach Police Department said the warrant for her arrest was issued Tuesday afternoon.

In the original release, Special Prosecutor Don Caldwell said Taylor directed his Virginia Beach campaign staff to collect signatures to get independent candidate Shaun Brown on the ballot, which political analysts said could have siphoned votes from Taylor's challenger, Democrat and current Representative Elaine Luria.

Caldwell then said members of Taylor's campaign staff broke the law in collecting fraudulent signatures. 

Taylor responded to the release by claiming vindication, saying he "did nothing illegal" and writing that his former campaign staffers should be held accountable for their actions.

In a response to 13 News Now Investigative Reporter Evan Watson on Twitter, Taylor wrote his team is "exploring legal options to make [the DCCC] accountable for their disgustingly defamatory ways."

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee said in a statement that Taylor is still refusing to take responsibility for his staff's actions. The DCCC also claimed Taylor violated House Ethics Rules that prohibit Congress members from using House offices for campaign strategy.

In the release, Caldwell reported that the decision to direct campaign staffers to collect signatures for Brown was made in Scott Taylor's D.C. office.

In his statement, Taylor said the "Democrats" leveled "smears and lies" against him during the campaign and claimed that Taylor himself was under investigation.

Taylor did not respond to requests for an interview to clarify these assertions.

DCCC campaign ads from last fall attribute allegations of election fraud to Taylor's campaign, not to Taylor himself.

"Congressman Scott Taylor's campaign is under investigation for forging signatures," one DCCC ad aired. "A judge found forgery and fraud in signatures collected by his campaign."

Caldwell said a group of six to eight staffers circulated the petitions and the investigation is still open pending more information. 

"The full explanation of what happened will hopefully be answered in the months to come," Caldwell wrote.