A Republican strategist locked in a bitter two-year feud with Rand Paul's top media consultant told BuzzFeed News he is sorry for his "immature choices" after being found guilty last week in criminal court.
Nick Everhart was convicted of one count of unauthorized use of cable or telecommunications property for enlisting a colleague to illegally retrieve materials from a company computer after being fired. He was found not guilty on a second count, and could get as much as 12 months in prison when he is sentenced in Delaware County, Ohio.
Everhart was fired from the Republican advertising firm Strategy Group in 2013 after engineering a dramatic religious intervention with CEO Rex Elass. In a statement to BuzzFeed News he maintained that he didn't mean to commit any crimes, and only wanted to retrieve family photos from his work computer. The company says he was trying to steal files.
"My intent was not to break the law. If I thought retrieving photos of my kids would lead to any of this, I would have let those memories go," Everhart said in the statement, apologizing for the way his "immature choices" have hurt his loved ones.
Everhart, who still faces two counts each of perjury and evidence tampering, also blamed his former boss and mentor for allowing "irrational resentment" to fuel a vendetta against him.
Reached by BuzzFeed News, Elsass, who works for Paul's presidential campaign, said, "I maintain a compassion for Nick Everhart but justice is necessary for my heart, my family, faith, life's work, and the employees and families who suffered. May God have mercy and grace on all of us."
Elsass added, "I cooperated with prosecutors and justice was served. My prayer is that Nick will be able to repair his heart and go on with life. The conviction and pending charges speak for themselves."
Alex Tornero, a Strategy Group creative director who worked with Everhart for six years, also called BuzzFeed News to say his former colleague had been determined in his final weeks at the firm "to destroy Rex and take the company for himself."
"He thought a lot of the success the company had was due to him, and it made him do a lot of crazy stuff and dishonest things," Tornero said.
But in his statement to BuzzFeed News, Everhart said his confrontation with Elsass in 2013 was born out of concern for "the personal well-being of Rex and the long-term stability of the firm."
Everhart's full statement:
Two years ago, I took part in a management meeting involving Rex Elsass, the CEO of my former employer, The Strategy Group for Media. As president of the company, I was concerned there were serious problems – problems that threatened the personal well-being of Rex and the long-term stability of the firm.
But Rex was more than my employer and colleague. He had been a mentor and close friend for over a decade. In retrospect, I should have been more respectful and met him one-on-one. If we could not find a way to address these areas of concern properly, the proper pathway would have been resignation. Instead, I chose confrontation.
Why? Candidly, I lacked the courage to do this on my own. Pride impaired judgment.
That was the first of several mistakes I've made over the last twenty-seven months, in trying to deal with this situation. Failing to properly anticipate the irrational resentment Rex would harbor after humiliating him in a group setting would have grave consequences for me and my family.
In hindsight, Rex's reaction was predictable. I had hoped for something different, but it did not happen that way. Termination was just the beginning. He also initiated foreclosure litigation on my home, filed a civil action to prevent me from working in campaign politics, and then used the civil case that was mutually resolved by settlement to kick-start criminal proceedings.
Those proceedings brought to light a second mistake that I will regret the rest of my life. After Rex fired me, I asked my assistant and friend to retrieve family photos and videos off company computers. I arrogantly thought they were my property and I could do with them as I saw fit. I should have just asked my lawyer to get them.
On Friday, June 10th a jury in Delaware County found me guilty of one count of unauthorized use of cable or telecommunications property, a fifth degree felony.
My intent was not to break the law. If I thought retrieving photos of my kids would lead to any of this, I would have let those memories go. I now understand these actions put my assistant in harm's way. I take full responsibility for my poor decisions.
Although I seek forgiveness, I don't deserve sympathy. I've embarrassed myself and my family. Immature choices put innocent people in the middle of a feud between two colleagues and friends that should have known better.
I'm paid to advise candidates and elected officials on how best to present themselves to the public. I didn't meet the standard I set for others. It's going to take a long time to regain that trust. Taking ownership of my mistakes and humbly asking for absolution is the first step on the road to redemption.
McKay Coppins is a senior writer for the BuzzFeed News politics team, and the author of The Wilderness, about the battle over the future of the Republican Party.
Contact McKay Coppins at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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