A staffer for former Rep. Scott Taylor’s (R-VA) 2018 re-election campaign has been indicted on election fraud charges, though the special prosecutor investigating the scandal said in a press release Monday that his ongoing probe has been hampered by “the lack of cooperation of key individuals.”
Lauren Creekmore was one of several Taylor campaign staffers who collected signature sheets riddled with forged signatures to help get an independent candidate on the ballot in the congressional race, an attempt by Taylor’s side to split the Democratic vote in two.
Special prosecutor Don Caldwell announced Monday that he’d presented two indictments against one individual, which a county clerk later confirmed to The Virginian-Pilot was Creekmore. She was indicted by a grand jury for two counts of “False statements, etc., election fraud.”
Caldwell noted in his statement that his probe was “continuing” and that, while Taylor himself has cooperated with the probe, “at this point in time, what actually happened within the campaign headquarters is still a subject of investigation due primarily to the lack of cooperation of key individuals with the [Virginia State Police] investigator.”
“The full explanation of what happened will hopefully be answered in the months to come,” he said.
As TPM reported at the time, suspicions that Taylor’s campaign had engaged in signature forgery first arose in August, when it was revealed a dead man’s signature had appeared on a signature sheet to get former Democratic congressional contender Shaun Brown on the ballot as an independent.
Democrats eventually sued, successfully, to get Brown kicked off the ballot based on the forged signatures. “There was in fact fraud, forged signatures,” Brown’s lawyer, James Ellenson, acknowledged to TPM in September. Even after the scandal made national news, Taylor kept paying Creekmore and others involved in the scheme.
Caldwell, the commonwealth’s attorney for the city of Roanoke, confirmed in his press release Monday what many Democrats had long suspected: “A decision was reached” during a June meeting in Taylor’s Washington, D.C. office “to support Ms. Brown’s effort by using available campaign resources to circulate petitions on her behalf.”
But as Caldwell noted in his release, scheming to split the Democratic vote by propping up an independent candidate isn’t a crime. To Taylor, that translated as “vindication.”
“I knew nothing about any illegal actions that transpired,” the former congressman said in a statement posted to Twitter. He attacked Democrats for implying otherwise, noting in a separate tweet that the “statute of limitations” on suing the Democratic Party for defamation “has certainly not run out.”
Jake Rubenstein, the communications director for the Democratic Party of Virginia, told TPM in a statement that Caldwell’s release made clear that “Taylor’s campaign participated in a criminal forgery scheme to cheat the voters of a district Taylor represented.”
TPM broke the news in August that Taylor had personally tried to bury the signature forgery story. He called the local Democratic volunteer who’d first flagged the discrepancies in a Facebook post and tried to pressure her to take the post down.
Taylor sounded “frantic” during his phone call with the volunteer, Lindsey Terry, she told TPM. The congressman even said he’d had someone drive by Terry’s house, “to verify that I was who I said I was,” Terry recalled.
Taylor also addressed the accusations at the time in a Facebook video, one he later deleted.
“They also accused this private citizen of committing a crime of fraud,” he said in the video, referring to a staffer. “I mean, she should sue them. They defamed her publicly. I hope she does sue them.”
Read Caldwell’s press release below: