An­thony Weiner pleads guilty

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - FRONT PAGE - By Larry Neumeis­ter and Ton Hays Associated Press

The for­mer Demo­cratic con­gress­man ex­changed ex­plic­itly sex­ual text mes­sages with a 15-year-old girl.

NEW YORK — For­mer U.S. Rep. An­thony Weiner, whosepen­chant 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-year-old girl that he said de­stroyed his “life’s dream in pub­lic service.”

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,” Weiner, 52, said.

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

Plead­ing to the charge, which re­quires him to reg­is­ter as a sex­of­fender, could bring a sen­tence of up to 10 years.

But Weiner is likely to serve a much shorter term if he is sen­tenced to prison.

He signed a plea agree­ment with pros­e­cu­tors in which 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 vic­tim­would have called for a prison sen­tence of up to 14 years un­der sen­tenc­ing guide­lineswere it not for the plea bar­gain and a 10-year max­i­mum penalty on the charge.

Weiner read from a pre­pared state­ment af­ter U.S. District Judge Loretta 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.”

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 ofmy sick­ness.”

He said he con­tin­ues to fol­lowthe treat­ment daily.

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

His es­tranged wife, Huma Abe­din, was not in court.

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

That same month, the FBI be­gan in­ves­ti­gat­ing Weiner af­ter the North Carolina girl told the news web­siteDai­lyMail.comthat she and Weiner had ex­changed lewd mes­sages for sev­eral months. She also ac­cused him of ask­ing her to un­dress on cam­era.

As part of his plea, Weiner agreed to for­feit his iPhone.

The in­ves­ti­ga­tion led FBI agents to seize his lap­top com­puter, which led to the dis­cov­ery of emails Clin­ton had sent to Abe­din.

In late Oc­to­ber, days be­fore the elec­tion, FBI Di­rec­tor James Comey stunned the coun­try by an­nounc­ing that his agency was re­open­ing its closed in­ves­ti­ga­tion into Clin­ton’s han­dling of State De­part­ment busi­ness on a pri­vate email server, so it could an­a­lyze the newly dis­cov­ered cor­re­spon­dence.

That in­quiry was brief. Comey an­nounced shortly be­fore the elec­tion that the new emails con­tained noth­ing to change his view that Clin­ton could not be charged with a crime.

But Clin­ton partly blamed her loss to Repub­li­can Don­ald Trump on Comey’s an­nounce­ment.

Weiner rep­re­sented NewYork in­Congress from 1999 to 2011.

MARY ALTAFFER/AP

For­mer U.S. Rep. An­thony Weiner leaves fed­eral court af­ter plead­ing guilty.

MARY ALTAFFER/AP

An­tho­nyWeiner leaves court af­ter plead­ing guilty to a sin­gle count of trans­mit­ting ob­scene ma­te­rial to a mi­nor.

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