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Shuster aide details spying operations

DelGrosso home, events staked out

Friday, November 07, 2003

By Dennis B. Roddy, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

U.S. Rep. Bill Shuster, R-Blair, was collecting names of businessmen in his district he suspected of helping his challenger in next year's primary, according to a former aide who says he was instructed by the congressman to conduct surveillance of the rival's events and home.

Joshua Juda, a 22-year-old part-time Shuster aide who resigned last Friday, said he was sent to a private amusement park in the Blair County town of Tipton, where he phoned in the names and descriptions of citizens who attended a fund-raiser on June 6 for Michael DelGrosso, Shuster's Republican challenger.

Another stakeout operation, on the home of an insurance agent who was helping DelGrosso, was discussed, Juda said, but he was not assigned to carry it out and did not know if it ever took place.

Juda yesterday said he watched the DelGrosso fund-raiser on June 6 from a vantage point inside the park and used a cell phone to report in the names of "five or six business people from the Altoona area" he saw attending. Juda said Shuster, a two-term incumbent, personally asked him to conduct the surveillance as well as two later stakeouts on DelGrosso's house.

After neighbors phoned state police with reports of a suspicious car in their neighborhood and passed his license number along, Juda said Shuster personally instructed him not to tell the police what he was doing there or whom he worked for.

"He told me not to contact the state police until he could get back to me," Juda said. Shuster then called back.

"He said he'd talked to an attorney and that if there was no violation of law, I did not have to tell the state policeman why I was there or who I worked for," Juda said. "The congressman said to me -- he was very clear on this -- he said ask the state policeman 'Do not violate my privacy.' "

A state police spokesman in Hollidaysburg, Sgt. Timothy Mercer, said a trooper was assigned to investigate the suspicious vehicle report, but found no violations of law.

Shuster's staff later issued a statement that a part-time campaign volunteer had, on one occasion, watched outside DelGrosso's home in September. The congressman said the action was unauthorized. Juda resigned his position with Shuster and then issued a statement saying the spying operation was both authorized and more extensive than previously believed.

Shuster yesterday issued a statement saying he was "saddened and perplexed" by Juda's charges, but did not address the allegations of intelligence gathering.

"As both a volunteer to my election campaigns and a part-time employee of my congressional staff, I had come to appreciate both Josh's work and his friendship," Shuster said.

The surveillance apparently began with the June 6 fund-raiser, held at DelGrosso Park, an amusement park named after the DelGrosso family, which founded DelGrosso Italian Foods in Tipton.

Shuster "wanted to know if there were any contributors there who might be changing sides," Juda said. He said he passed the names over his phone to Shuster aide Amy Hanna, who runs Shuster's Hollidaysburg office. Hanna did not return repeated telephone calls yesterday.

"This was a Friday evening. They gave me $20 in case I wanted a soda or hot dog or something at the park," Juda said.

Juda said on Wednesday that he was assigned to conduct surveillance on DelGrosso -- work Juda says was done solely on his congressional work time.

According to Juda, Shuster's staff also planned to stake out a fund-raising reception at the home of Wally Rossi, a Tipton insurance agent who is supporting DelGrosso.

Rossi yesterday said he was unaware of any stakeout activities at his home, but called the allegation disturbing.

"It's really bizarre to think they're actually doing surveillance and spying," Rossi said.

DelGrosso yesterday complained that Shuster summoned DelGrosso supporters to his Hollidaysburg office on two occasions in an effort to get them to back away from public support for the challenger.

"If you're going to ask me if there was pressure put on people, I know that for a fact," DelGrosso said. "To be honest, I expect that at every function we have there is somebody from Congressman Shuster's camp. With everything I've learned about campaigns and the good advice I received from people, I expect that will be the case."


Dennis Roddy can be reached at droddy@post-gazette.com or 412-263-1965.

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