Weiner pleads guilty in sex­ting case

The Globe and Mail (Alberta Edition) - - NEWS - LARRY NEUMEIS­TER NEW YORK TOM HAYS

For­mer con­gress­man must reg­is­ter as a sex of­fender and could face up to 10 years in prison for com­mu­ni­ca­tions with 15-year-old girl

For­mer U.S. Rep. An­thony Weiner, whose pen­chant for sex­ting strangers ended his po­lit­i­cal ca­reer and sparked a probe that up­ended the pres­i­den­tial race, pleaded guilty Fri­day to a sex charge, tear­fully apol­o­giz­ing for com­mu­ni­ca­tions with a 15-yearold girl that he said de­stroyed his “life’s dream in pub­lic ser­vice.”

Mr. Weiner, who could go to prison, pleaded guilty to a sin­gle count of trans­mit­ting ob­scene ma­te­rial to a mi­nor. He ad­mit­ted ex­chang­ing online mes­sages with the girl be­gin­ning in Jan­uary, 2015, and “shar­ing ex­plicit im­ages and en­cour­ag­ing her to en­gage in sex­u­ally ex­plicit con­duct.”

“I have a sick­ness, but I do not have an ex­cuse,” he said.

In court, the 52-year-old for­mer Demo­cratic con­gress­man paused repeatedly as he fought back tears and tried to com­pose him­self. He said he knew the tex­ting was “as mo­rally wrong as it was un­law­ful.”

Plead­ing to the charge, which re­quires him to reg­is­ter as a sex of­fender, could bring a sen­tence of up to 10 years. But Mr. Weiner is likely to serve much less time if he is sen­tenced to prison.

In a plea agree­ment with pros­e­cu­tors, he agreed not to ap­peal any sen­tence be­tween 21 and 27 months in prison. His lawyer can re­quest le­niency at a sen­tenc­ing sched­uled for Sept. 8.

In a writ­ten plea agree­ment, pros­e­cu­tors said ag­gra­vat­ing fac­tors such as the age of the vic­tim would have called for a prison sen­tence of up to 14 years un­der sen­tenc­ing guide­lines were it not for the plea bar­gain and a 10-year max­i­mum penalty on the charge.

Wear­ing his wed­ding ring and a dark blue suit with a ma­roon tie, Mr. Weiner read from a pre­pared state­ment af­ter U.S. District Judge Loretta A. Preska ad­dressed him: “Tell me what you did, sir.”

He said he “com­pul­sively sought at­ten­tion from women who con­tacted me on so­cial media” be­gin­ning with his ser­vice in Congress and con­tin­u­ing through the first half of last year.

“I en­gaged with many of them in both sex­ual and non­sex­ual con­ver­sa­tion,” he said. “Th­ese de­struc­tive im­pulses brought great dev­as­ta­tion to my fam­ily and friends and de­stroyed my life’s dream in pub­lic ser­vice. Yet I re­mained in de­nial even as the world around me fell apart.”

Mr. Weiner said he be­gan get­ting men­tal-health treat­ment in the fall, when he said he “came to grips for the first time with the depths of my sick­ness.” He said he con­tin­ues to fol­low the treat­ment daily.

“I had hit bot­tom,” he said. “Through treat­ment I found the courage to take a moral in­ven­tory of my de­fects.”

Mr. Weiner apol­o­gized to “ev­ery­one I have hurt,” in­clud­ing the girl he “mis­treated so badly.”

Fin­ished speak­ing, he wiped his eyes with tis­sues.

Mr. Weiner was al­ready in fed­eral cus­tody ahead of the hear­ing, which lasted less than half an hour. After­ward, he shook hands with pros­e­cu­tors, telling them: “Thanks, guys. I ap­pre­ci­ate your ser­vice.”

He then went down the courthouse el­e­va­tor sur­rounded by his lawyers and court of­fi­cers and left the build­ing. He said noth­ing to re­porters. His wife, Huma Abe­din, was not in court.

Ms. Abe­din, a top aide to Dem- ocratic pres­i­den­tial can­di­date Hil­lary Clin­ton last year, sep­a­rated from Mr. Weiner in Septem­ber af­ter rev­e­la­tions he had sent more sex­u­ally charged mes­sages online.

That same month, the FBI be­gan in­ves­ti­gat­ing Mr. Weiner af­ter the North Carolina girl told the news web­site Dai­ly­Mail.com that she and Mr. Weiner had ex­changed lewd mes­sages for sev­eral months.

ED­UARDO MUNOZ AL­VAREZ/GETTY IM­AGES

For­mer Demo­cratic con­gress­man An­thony Weiner ex­its fed­eral court on Fri­day in New York.

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