Trenton: A politician who emailed a woman nude photos of himself that were later posted on a GOP activist's website announced his resignation Tuesday and said he'll consider all legal options to have the pictures taken down.
In an emailed statement, Cumberland County freeholder Louis Magazzu apologised to his friends, family and constituents but indicated that he thought he was being set up.
The 53-year-old Democratic lawyer, who'd been an elected county official since 1997, said he sent the photos to a woman with whom he corresponded online for several years and that she requested the photos. At least two of the photos revealed his crotch, two photos showed him fully dressed in a suit and a fifth showed him from the waist up, shirtless.
"I did not know that she was working with an avowed political enemy to distribute these pictures," he said. "I have retained counsel to determine what laws may have been broken by the unauthorised distribution of those pictures."
The pictures appear to show Magazzu standing naked in front of a mirror photographing himself with a BlackBerry - photos similar to those that led US Representative Anthony Weiner of New York to resign in June. The seven-term Democratic congressman acknowledged sending sexually explicit messages and photos to several women online.
Unlike Weiner, who waited weeks amid the intense controversy before resigning, Magazzu stepped down a day after the scandal hit local newspapers.
Magazzu has five children but said he's been separated from his wife for about two years. His attorney, Rocco Cipparone, said the pictures were sent sometime around January.
"Unfortunately, in my personal life, I did not always demonstrate the wisdom and balance that I expected from myself, and that the people of Cumberland County deserve and have every right to expect," Magazzu said.
The man who posted the photos last month, Carl B Johnson of Millville, told The Associated Press that he was happy Magazzu was leaving office and that he would consider taking down the photos.
"He should have stepped down a long time ago for many reasons. His brand of politics is harmful to the entire political process," Johnson said, adding: "I'm sorry it had to happen this way."
Johnson said he started his website three years ago after a dispute with Magazzu over claims about property taxes. Johnson decided to post the photos because Magazzu had brought up Johnson's family and back child support payments during their squabble, he said.
"I started the blog three years ago after a nasty freeholder meeting ... it started as a way to expose the dirty underbelly of Cumberland County politics," Johnson said. "No one did anything in the party without him having his say."
Johnson said on his website that the woman "contacted me out of the blue this year." He said he told her to contact the media, and when none seemed interested, he "reluctantly revealed them."
Cipparone, Magazzu's attorney, said they are looking into whether Johnson violated criminal and civil privacy laws by posting the photos and sending uncensored copies to local newspapers.
"He is the victim of unauthorized, nonconsensual dissemination of these photos," Cipparone said. "While his sending images may be considered indiscreet, it was a private communication intended for one other person only."
Democrats offered mixed reactions about the photos, with fellow freeholder director William Whelan calling for Magazzu to resign and Cumberland County Democratic Party co-chairman Doug Long saying the pictures were private and shouldn't have a bearing on Magazzu's political life.
"Personally, I don't think it's unethical at all," Long said. "He didn't lie or try to hurt anybody, and it didn't affect his ability as a freeholder."