Former congressman Anthony Weiner and his estranged wife, Huma Abedin, have appeared before a New York City judge to ask for privacy in their divorce case. (Sept. 13)
Anthony Weiner, the disgraced former congressman who pleaded guilty in May to sexting with a 15-year-old girl, was sentenced Monday to 21 months in prison.
Weiner, 53, also faces spending the rest of his life as a registered sex offender for his lengthy and lurid social media contacts with the North Carolina teen.
Weiner cried as he read from a written statement in Manhattan federal court, saying he was sorry and that he was “a very sick man for a very long time.”
“The crime I committed was my rock bottom,” Weiner said. “I live a different and better life today.”
Weiner, who must report to prison by Nov. 6, wept again after the sentence was announced.
“This is a serious crime that deserves serious punishment,” federal Judge Denise Cote said.
Weiner was first elected to Congress in 1998 and easily won re-election in his Brooklyn district six more times. His star rose in the Democratic Party in 2010 after a short but dramatic speech before Congress blasting Republicans for voting against an aid bill for first-responders to the 9/11 terror attacks.
A year later he was out, resigning his seat after admitting to exchanging “messages and photos of an explicit nature with about six women” over a period of about three years.
Weiner attempted a comeback and was running for mayor of New York in 2013 when it emerged that he was sending explicit photos to a 22-year-old woman under the pseudonym “Carlos Danger.”
Weiner married Huma Abedin, a longtime aide to Hillary Clinton, in 2010. The couple had a son in 2011. Abedin separated from Weiner in 2016 and filed for divorce after his guilty plea on one count of transferring obscene material to a minor.
The relationship became a crucial factor in the 2016 presidential campaign when then-FBI director James Comey reopened an investigation into Clinton emails less than two weeks before Election Day. The FBI cited a batch of emails discovered in the Weiner probe. Days later, the FBI said nothing new nor damaging against Clinton had been discovered.
In the sexting case, prosecutors say the teen initiated the communications with Weiner via Twitter on Jan. 23, 2016. The girl acknowledged she was a minor, but the contacts continued over Facebook messenger, Skype, Snapchat and other social media outlets.
Even after the girl told Weiner she was 15, Weiner asked her to show him her naked body, which she did, prosecutors say. He also sent her pornography.
“Anthony Weiner … asked a girl who he knew to be 15 years old to display her naked body and engage in sexually explicit behavior for him online,” acting U.S. Attorney Joon Kim said. “Today, Anthony Weiner received a just sentence that was appropriate for his crime.”
Barry Slotnick, who successfully defended Bernie Goetz after the so-called “subway vigilante” shot four alleged muggers on a New York subway in 1984, agrees with Kim. Slotnick, who was not involved in the Weiner case, said the sentence sent a message to Weiner — and to others considering a similar crime.
“The court had no choice, they had to send him to jail,” Slotnick told USA TODAY. “An important legislator can’t be walking around sending inappropriate messages to 15-year-olds.”
Weiner had asked federal Judge Denise Cote for probation. Defense lawyer Arlo Devlin-Brown claimed in court papers that his client was “at the depths of an uncontrolled sickness” during the correspondence.
“The sentencing should also reflect the specifics of Anthony’s sickness, which Anthony has made enormous progress in addressing,” Devlin-Brown wrote.
Devlin-Brown also claimed the teen was “looking to generate material for a book” when she successfully “induced” Weiner’s conduct. The teen documented details of the communications and last year sold her story to a British tabloid for $30,000, Devlin-Brown said.
Prosecutors, who sought at least 21 months in prison for Weiner, wrote that the victim’s motives were not relevant and that Weiner had displayed a “dangerous level of denial.”
“He initially denied his conduct, he suffered personal and professional consequences, he publicly apologized and claimed reform,” prosecutors wrote. “Yet he continued to engage in the very conduct he swore off, progressing … to that which is also destructive to a teenage girl.”
Contributing: The Associated Press
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