His Dec. 11 arrest came as a shock, and subsequent details of child pornography charges brought against well-known congressional staffer Jesse Ryan Loskarn provoked disgust and astonishment from Capitol Hill.
Around noon Friday, news of Loskarn’s suicide stunned and saddened the Capitol community. Former acquaintances in the Senate press galleries gasped as they read about the death of Sen. Lamar Alexander’s former chief of staff.
“For everyone involved, this is a sad and tragic story from beginning to end,” the Tennessee Republican said in a statement.
The door to Alexander’s fourth-floor Dirksen Building office was open for business as usual on Friday afternoon. About six weeks earlier, Loskarn’s office computer was searched for evidence as part of a sweep led by United States Postal Inspection Service agents.
Loskarn never arrived for work that day. The 35-year-old was arrested at his Southeast D.C. home at an address matching credit card billing statements for several purchases Loskarn allegedly made from a movie production company specializing in videos of nude young boys. During the search, he allegedly placed a portable hard drive containing hundreds of videos of child pornography outside a window, which agents later recovered.
Alexander announced that day that he would place the well-known and influential staffer on leave, saying in a statement that he was “stunned, shocked and saddened” by the news. Video of Loskarn being escorted from his home in handcuffs soon circulated, and Alexander subsequently announced he would replace the former rising star with a new chief of staff.
On Dec. 12, Loskarn appeared in the District’s federal courthouse, blocks from the Capitol where he worked for more than a decade, as the stomach-turning details of the investigation began to surface.
Alexander called the allegations “repugnant and disturbing” and Rep. Marsha Blackburn, another Tennessee Republican who had employed the savvy GOP operative, announced she also was “shocked, saddened and stunned.”
On Dec. 16, after five days in the custody of U.S. marshals, Loskarn appeared before a federal magistrate in a short-sleeved orange jumpsuit to ask that he be released into his parents’ custody to await trial.
Justice Department attorney Mi Yung Park argued that could be a bad idea, saying Loskarn’s “demeanor and comments he made at the time of arrest” suggested he might try to harm himself. His attorneys countered that Loskarn had no criminal record, “strong ties” to the D.C. community where he lived for 14 years and had done nothing to suggest he was a suicide risk.
Defense attorney Pamela Satterfield also rejected claims made in a Daily Caller article that suggested his Capitol Hill colleagues were worried about self-harm.
A federal judge granted the defense team’s request and released Loskarn to the custody of his parents, Chuck and Laura, who were present in the courtroom during the deliberations. Under the terms of his release, he was under around-the-clock home detention, with his movements monitored by an ankle bracelet and no access to the Internet.
Court documents show attorneys had pushed back the date of indictment to Feb. 10 and were potentially working toward a plea bargain. The charges of possession and distribution of child pornography carry a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.
Carroll County Sheriff’s Department authorities responded to the Loskarns’ Sykesville, Md., home around noon Thursday and found Loskarn deceased in the basement. The Maryland state medical examiner confirmed hanging was the cause of death, which has been ruled a suicide. Police are still investigating.
Blackburn reacted to the rapid downfall of a well-reputed staffer with a Friday afternoon statement.
“We received the news with sadness and are keeping his family in our thoughts and prayers,” she said.