Sunday, May 26, 2024

Florida Woman Gets Prison Time for Selling President’s Daughter’s Stolen Diary

HomeU.S.Florida Woman Gets Prison Time for Selling President's Daughter's Stolen Diary

In a case that exposed the private writings of the president’s daughter, a Florida woman was sentenced on Tuesday to spend a month behind bars for her role in stealing and selling Ashley Biden’s personal diary.

The woman, Aimee Harris, 40, had pleaded guilty to conspiracy last year for taking Ms. Biden’s belongings, including the diary, from a home in Florida where they had been stored temporarily in 2020 while Ms. Biden was undergoing treatment.

Federal prosecutors said Ms. Harris had then made efforts to profit off the stolen property, ultimately selling some of the items, including the diary containing deeply personal revelations, to a conservative group known for its undercover stings targeting liberal organizations and Democratic politicians.

The diary’s explosive contents never became public, but the case nonetheless provided a discomfiting glimpse into the vulnerabilities faced by the families of prominent political figures in an era of heightened polarization.

In handing down the sentence in Manhattan federal court, Judge Laura Taylor Swain described Ms. Harris’s actions as “despicable” and said she appeared motivated by feelings of resentment toward Ms. Biden’s father, President Biden.

“This wasn’t TV drama or a novel,” Judge Swain told the defendant. “It was an abusive violation of her rights and her dignity.”

Ms. Harris, a mother of two young children, tearfully apologized, telling the court she had been a longtime victim of domestic abuse and sexual trauma. “I have suffered from PTSD for most of my adult life,” she said.

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But prosecutors argued that Ms. Harris had been driven primarily by greed and partisan animus, and they pushed for a sentence of at least a few months in prison.

“Aimee Harris sought to profit by violating the privacy of President Biden’s daughter for Ms. Harris’s own political reasons and her own self-interest,” said Robert Sobelman, an assistant United States attorney.

The stolen items surfaced in September 2020 when Ms. Harris contacted representatives of Project Veritas, a right-wing group known for its guerilla tactics, which paid her $40,000 for the diary and other belongings. The group ultimately decided against publishing the diary’s contents but explored sharing them with the Trump 2020 presidential re-election campaign.

Both Ms. Harris and Robert Kurlander, the private investigator from Florida who brokered the deal with Project Veritas, were later charged and pleaded guilty to conspiracy.

In a victim statement read aloud in court, Ms. Biden, 41, said she had been deeply shaken by the theft of her “profoundly personal” writings, which she said detailed “my most private life struggles as a very real human being.”

“This was a hard trauma for me to relive,” said Ms. Biden, who is a social worker and has been open about her struggles with substance abuse. “It felt like a crime worthy of the most pernicious perpetrators.”

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Ms. Harris, for her part, insisted that she had found Ms. Biden’s items unintentionally and had never meant to violate the younger Biden’s privacy.

“I would have never set out to have taken or solicited these highly personal items had I known it belonged to her,” she said, adding that she nonetheless took “full responsibility” for selling them.

In addition to the month in prison, Judge Swain sentenced Ms. Harris to three months of home confinement. The judge also ordered Ms. Harris to pay a $20,000 fine, the sum she received from Project Veritas, and to participate in mental health treatment.

The diary episode represents one of the few legal imbroglios to have entangled the president’s family since he took office in 2021. It is just the latest example of how the heightened polarization of the Trump era has spilled over into the private lives of public figures and their families.

While the most salacious details from Ms. Biden’s diary were never published, prosecutors have said the entries contained “highly personal revelations” and information about the Biden family, including her relationships with her ex-husband and her struggle with addiction.

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Founded in 2010 by the conservative provocateur James O’Keefe, Project Veritas has gained notoriety — and faced lawsuits and criminal charges — for its efforts to capture supposed liberal bias and corruption through undercover recordings and stings.

On its website, the group celebrated obtaining Ms. Biden’s “explosive” diary and said it had ultimately chosen not to publish it out of respect for her struggles with addiction that were detailed in the writings.

Federal authorities opened an investigation after a representative for Ms. Biden reported the items had been stolen. Prosecutors accused Ms. Harris and Mr. Kurlander of not just stealing the belongings but of trying to profit off their access to the Biden family by contacting the Trump campaign.

The case has unfolded against the backdrop of stark political divisions that have fueled an industry of amateur digital muckrakers seeking to unearth potentially damaging information about public figures.

In sentencing Ms. Harris on Tuesday, Judge Swain said the diary theft had exposed Ms. Biden to intense public scrutiny while causing her “substantial emotional trauma.”

“She should not have had to watch her daughter be put through that,” the judge said of Ms. Biden, referring to the president.

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Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee
Mezhar Alee is a prolific author who provides commentary and analysis on business, finance, politics, sports, and current events on his website Opportuneist. With over a decade of experience in journalism and blogging, Mezhar aims to deliver well-researched insights and thought-provoking perspectives on important local and global issues in society.

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