Anthony Weiner was sentenced to 21 months in prison for exchanging sexually explicit messages with a 15-year-old girl, capping the spectacular fall of the former congressman whose self-destructive behavior wrecked his career and marriage and played a role in the final days of the 2016 presidential campaign.
“The crime I committed was my rock bottom,” a tearful Weiner told U.S. District Judge Denise Cote. He was ordered to surrender to prison on Nov. 6.
“I was a very sick man for a long period of time, but I am also responsible for the damage I have done,” he said. “I have no excuse.”
Weiner pleaded guilty in May to one count of transmitting obscene material to a high-school girl in North Carolina. An FBI investigation into Weiner’s sexually explicit messages turned up emails that had been sent to his wife, Huma Abedin, then a top aide to Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. That prompted the FBI to reopen its investigation into Clinton’s use of a private email server while serving as Secretary of State.
“This is a serious crime that deserves serious punishment,” Cote said as she handed down the sentence. “She was a minor. She was a victim. She is entitled to the law’s full protection.”
Weiner broke down weeping, covering his face with his hand as Cote delivered the sentence before a packed courtroom in lower Manhattan.
Neither Weiner nor his lawyer, Arlo Devlin-Brown, responded to reporters’ questions after the 46-minute hearing.
“Anthony Weiner, a former Congressman and candidate for mayor, 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. Justice demands that this type of conduct be prosecuted and punished with time in prison,” Joon Kim, the acting U.S. attorney in Manhattan, said in a statement Monday.
Weiner admitted asking the girl to undress and touch herself, according to prosecutors. He never sought to meet with her in person.
Weiner, who faced as long as 10 years, had asked Cote to sentence him to probation. His lawyers said in court papers that the crime was a result of "an uncontrolled sickness" and the "profit-seeking curiosity" of the high-school girl, who contacted him in hopes of generating material for a book she is currently shopping to publishers. He said he hoped to avoid prison to continue with treatment and to help raise his five-year-old son.
Weiner told Cote he participates in therapy twice a week and attends 12-step meetings for sex addicts almost every day.
Prosecutors asked for a prison term of 21 months to 27 months, which they had agreed to as part of a plea deal with Weiner. He must register as a sex offender and forfeited his iPhone. Cote also ordered him to pay a $10,000 fine and to serve three years’ probation when he’s released.
As part of the government’s investigation of Weiner’s messages to the girl, FBI agents seized his laptop computer, which had Clinton’s emails to Abedin. On Oct. 28, 2016, FBI Director James Comey told Congress that the agents were reviewing the emails to determine whether they were relevant to the separate investigation of Clinton’s use of a private email server, throwing the election campaign into turmoil.
Two days before the election, Comey told Congress Clinton wouldn’t face any charges relating to the emails. In her book on the election, Clinton blames Comey, in part, for her loss to Donald Trump.
The former Secretary of State also detailed in “What Happened” Abedin’s reaction on hearing the news that Clinton’s emails to her were discovered on the laptop.
"When we heard this, Huma looked stricken," Clinton wrote. "Anthony had already caused so much heartache. And now this."
"‘This man is going to be the death of me,’ she said, bursting into tears."
Abedin, who is divorcing Weiner, wrote one of about 45 letters submitted to the sentencing judge, from politicians, family and other sex addicts, in support of his bid for leniency.
Weiner’s parents and brother sat in the front row of the courtroom. Abedin wasn’t present.
Weiner, 53, began his political career as an aide to then-U.S. Representative Chuck Schumer, a Democrat who is now a senator from New York. Weiner won a seat on the New York City Council in 1991 at 27, and was elected to Schumer’s former House seat in 1998.
Weiner was re-elected six times but was forced to resign in 2011 after admitting to “inappropriate conversations” with six women during three years, including on Facebook, email, Twitter and on his phone.
Weiner ran for mayor of New York City in 2013. He was leading the Democratic pack in some polls when news broke that Weiner, using the alias "Carlos Danger," had sent explicit pictures to an Indiana woman. The news torpedoed his chances for a political comeback.
The case is U.S. vs. Weiner, 17-cr-00307, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).