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Shuster claims Juda acted on his own in spying incident

U.S. Congressman Bill Shuster said this morning that the man who claims he and his staff directed him to spy on his opponent, acted on his own and that he regrets 22-year-old Joshua Juda took that initiative.
“When the question was raised of whether or not my opponent actually was living as a family in the district, Joshua was apparently part of those conversations and came away with the impression that he should take action,” Shuster said. “I regret that he took this initiative.”
Shuster said that is why he visited and called residents of the Tipton neighborhood last week to apologize.
After spending a week hearing allegations of alleged spying from within his camp, Shuster today reponded to those allegation, saying the statements made by a former employee were simply not true.
“The statement released by Joshua Juda on Nov. 4, as well as those he has made to the media, are simply not accurate or correct,” Shuster said in a statement at a press conference at the Holiday Inn in Breezewood this morning.
The media first grabbed the story in September after residents in a Tipton neighborhood noticed a red Volkswagen Jetta parked outside DelGrosso’s home. The residents feared for their safety and the safety of their children and called police.
Rumors began surfacing the person in that Jetta was an employee of Shuster’s staff.
Earlier this week, Juda, a 22-year-old resident of Altoona, e-mailed letters to local media stating that he was asked by the Congressman and his staff on at least three occassions to “monitor” DelGrosso’s activities, both at DelGrosso’s home and at a fundraising event at a local amusement park.
Also in his statement, Juda claims he conducted these “monitorings” on paid time and in no way volunteered to spy on DelGrosso.
Shuster, during his press conference, told reporters that after questioning members of his staff, including his Chief of Staff Alex Mistri, he was satisfied that no member of his staff ordered or directed Juda to undertake any of the activities indicated in his statement.
“At no time did I ever order, direct or ask Joshua to attend any fundraiser for Michael DelGrosso or to monitor Mr. DelGrosso,” said Shuster. “After these events became public, I never had a conversation with Joshua where he was asked to lie or to avoid talking to members of law enforcement. Any statement to the contrary is wrong.”
Shuster said the conversations he did have with Juda focused around his concern about Juda’s actions and to urge him to avoid engaging in these types of activities in the future. He said he was also concerned about Juda’s state of well-being and later told him the “damage was done” and “there was no use dwelling on the past as long as something like this would never happen again.”
“I was willing, and still am willing, to forgive Joshua for his mistakes,” said Shuster. “He had been with me as a campaign aide since I was first elected to Congress, and I came to appreciate his loyalty, hard work and friendship.”
Shuster said that although he “categorically disputes” the allegations that Juda has made, he takes full responsibility for the actions of those working on his behalf, whether they are from his Congressional office or his campaign team.
“Our manual for staff members clearly states that no political activity is to take place on government time,” he said. “This is a policy that we have tried to enforce emphatically.”
Shuster said the activities and actions of DelGrosso are not secret and have naturally been a topic of discussion amongst his staff. He said this would happen in any congressional office.
“The folks in Pennsylvania’s Ninth Congressional District have elected me to be their representative for Congress,” Shuster said. “That is a privilege that I value to the highest degree. The voters expect me to devote my attention to the issues that concern them, not the petty politics of a primary election campaign. That is what I have been doing and will continue to do.”
In closing, Shuster told reporters that he has requested a meeting with the chairman and ranking Democrat on the United States House of Representatives Ethic Committee to discuss this specific situation and to ask for a review of his office policies designed to separate government from politics to assure that they are meeting and exceeding their requirements. He said this is the best way to assure this will never happen again.
“Again, I apologize for the actions people took in my name, and I assure all of you that my office will double, triple and quadreuple its efforts to assure that daily politics does not interfere with the duties of my Congressional staff.
The Daily Herald attempted to contact Juda this morning, but he did not return phone calls.