Florida state attorney Jeff Ashton, famed from the Casey Anthony murder trial, has admitted he was a subscriber to the Ashley Madison “dating” website… despite being a married father of six noted for his moralizing speeches.
However, he claimed in a Sunday press conference that he merely “indulged his curiosity” about the site, insisted he committed no crime by patronizing it, said he had no intention of resigning, and in fact had no intention of answering any further questions about it.
As the Orlando Sentinel notes, Ashton even admitted that he accessed the adultery website from his office, although he insisted that he did not use government equipment to access the website, aside from the state government wi-fi network his laptop was connected to.
The Sentinel reports that Orange County Mayor Teresa Jacobs has requested an extensive review of the “county database” (by which the paper presumably means firewall and system activity logs) to confirm whether any “taxpayer time or resources” were abused for access to Ashley Madison.
“I don’t think anyone was more surprised than I was to hear about this,” said Mayor Jacobs, in an interview with Fox35 in Orlando. “I certainly know that Mr. Ashton has to answer to his family, to his faith and to this community.”
A separate report from the Orlando Sentinel on Monday afternoon said that Orlando’s Fraternal Order of Police is calling for an external investigation of Ashton. “We have several Orlando Police Officers who are facing criminal cases that the State Attorney has pushed for,” explained union president Shawn Dunlap, an Orlando police officer. “The State Attorney’s Office has talked about independent review and how OPD should not be conducting their own investigations. It would be kind of hypocritical to say that police are held to a higher standard and not demand an investigation when something like this is brought to light.”
Another detail that will take some work to reconcile with Ashton’s current denials is that he was an Ashley Madison member for two years, including an early account that he attempted to scrub by paying for the “total wipe” service, denounced by the hackers who stole the infidelity website’s data as a scam. That’s an awful lot of expensive “curiosity” he was indulging.
More from the Orlando Sentinel’s account of the Ashton press conference:
Ashton insisted that the “bad, childish, stupid error” was a personal one and would not affect his work as a state attorney.
He responded to a question about whether he had opened himself up to blackmail by saying that he never met anyone from the site and “never allowed any of it to go far enough” to a point where he could be identified. He also refused to divulge the email address he used, saying that “I think I’ve humiliated myself enough for one weekend.”
“I ask for the public’s forgiveness for my shortcomings, but those choices have had absolutely no impact on the performance of my official duties,” he said. “I regret that I have given ammunition to those who seek to discredit the work our office does. I am proud of the work and what we have accomplished thus far. But today, I’m not very proud of myself.”
Ashton choked up several times during the news conference, usually when speaking about his family and the embarrassment it has caused them.
“If I could have spared (my family) what happened in the last 24 hours, I would do it,” Ashton said.
One immediate strategy for sparing your family anguish springs to mind: don’t become a paid subscriber to adultery websites.
While we wait to see if the sympathy and political cards work – this scandal is just my enemies trying to thwart my noble work is a hardy spin-control perennial – Jacob Engels of the East Orlando Post, who broke the story about Ashton’s Ashley Madison account, has something else for him to explain:
As part of our detailed research, we have determined that the email address utilized for payment purposes on AshleyMadison.com was firstname.lastname@example.org.
Through further research, the East Orlando Post has discovered an account on AdultFriendFinder.com with the username “Barry5515” – with a “G” (Group) ending the username – suggesting that he was posting on behalf of himself and another party.
This means Ashton was potentially untruthful at the press conference, because a profile appearing to describe his professional and personal life can be found on AdultFriendFinder.com.
The “untruthful” judgment comes from Ashton responding to a point-blank question about whether he had used other dating or swinger websites by responding, “I don’t even know how to answer that.”
Engels reviews some other points of similarity between the AdultFriendFinder account and Ashton’s Ashley Madison profile, including “Barry5515G” providing a description of himself that very closely matches Ashton’s appearance and age, and his residence in Winter Park, Florida.
Two noteworthy aspects of the AdultFriendFinder account are that “Barry5515G” presented himself as one half of a couple looking for others to experiment sexually with – the other being a 45-year-old redheaded woman with green eyes – and the account was most recently accessed last week.