BROOKLYN, N.Y. (CN) — Kenneth Kurson, a friend of Jared Kushner who helped run the 2008 presidential campaign of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, was arraigned Friday on federal cyberstalking charges.
The complaint in New York’s Eastern District brings more bad press to the White House on the same day that Amazon Prime is launching the new “Borat” sequel, which includes a compromising appearance for Giuliani.
Kurson, 52, is accused of sending threatening messages to three individuals in November and December 2015. Federal prosecutors say he filed false complaints about two of the individuals with their employer, and showed up at their workplace, taking photographs and asking about one of their schedules.
Those individuals’ employer hired a security guard in response.
“As alleged, Kurson bullied his victims by attacking their character online and attempted to intimidate them by showing up at their place of employment without a valid reason,” FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge William F. Sweeney Jr. said in a statement. “The shadows of cyberspace may have provided him with some cover, but once his identity was revealed, he no longer had the benefit of a virtual retreat.”
At the center of the newly unsealed harassment allegations is Kurson’s divorce, which was underway in late 2015 when the alleged cyberstalking occurred. Prosecutors say Kurson blamed one of the individuals for sabotaging his marriage.
That person, referred to as Individual No. 1 in a 19-page arrest affidavit, denied Kurson’s accusation, according to emails obtained by the FBI. “Unfortunately, you have no one to blame but yourself,” one email states. “It is a bitter pill to swallow, but true.”
Prosecutors say Kurson used aliases including “Jayden Wagner” and “Eddie Train” to harass the individuals, who are not named in the complaint, by leaving negative reviews about them on Yelp. He allegedly then used a separate account to recommend his own reviews.
As Jayden Wagner, Kurson also allegedly emailed senior employees who worked with Individuals No. 1 and 2, posing as an employee and alleging that the two individuals were sleeping together and that it was “creating havoc” at work.
The criminal investigation of Kurson began after a background check turned of evidence of harassment while Kurson was under consideration in 2018 for an unpaid federal appointment in Trump’s administration. Investigators say Kurson lied about his 2015 use of the aliases while answering an FBI questionnaire related to the appointment.
Kurson was editor-in-chief of The New York Observer, the newspaper that President Donald Trump’s son-in-law Jarred Kushner founded in 2007, from 2013 to 2017. In 2018 started a company called Sea of Reeds Media.
During Giuliani's failed bid for president in 2008, Kurson was the campaign’s chief operating officer. He also co-authored Giuliani’s 2002 book “Leadership.” Giuliani, who acts as one of Trump’s personal attorneys, spoke out Wednesday about a scene in the new “Borat” sequel where he appears to have his hands down his pants in the hotel room of a woman he thinks is a reporter. On Twitter, the ex-mayor said that the footage merely shows him tucking in his shirt.
Marc Mukasey, who is representing Kurson with Daniel Fishbein, said in a statement that the allegations against Kurson should be tossed out.
“Ken Kurson is an honorable man, a loving dad and a gifted writer,” said Mukasey, who works for the firm Mukasey Frenchman & Sklaroff LLP. “The conduct alleged is hardly worthy of a federal criminal prosecution. Ken will get past it.”
Kurson appeared Friday in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Ramon E. Reyes. He was released on bail. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Nathan D. Reilly and Ryan C. Harris reported for the prosecution.