Former Rep. Anthony Weiner was sentenced Monday to 21 months in prison for sexting with a 15-year-old Gastonia girl – a scandal that may have cost Hillary Clinton the White House.
Weiner, 53, dropped his head into his hand and wept as the sentence was announced by Judge Denise Cote. After the hearing ended and Cote left the bench, he sat in his seat for several minutes, continuing to cry. He said nothing as he left the courthouse and must surrender to prison officials by Nov. 6.
The sentencing completed the sordid downfall of the New York Democrat, whose penchant for exchanging lewd messages and photos with young women online destroyed his career in Congress in 2011, doomed his bid for mayor of New York in 2013, wrecked his marriage to Clinton's closest aide, Huma Abedin, and became entangled in the 2016 presidential campaign.
Admitting “I have a sickness, but I do not have an excuse,” Weiner pleaded guilty in May to transferring obscene material to a minor, punishable by up to 10 years in prison, for illicit contact with the Gastonia teen . Earlier news accounts said the girl originally used social media to contact Weiner.
Weiner sought to be spared from prison, tearfully telling Cote on Monday that he was “a very sick man for a very long time. Weiner, weeping as he read from a written statement on a page he held in front of him, called his crime his “rock bottom.”
Prosecutors said he sent her porn and got her to take her clothes off and touch herself on Skype. Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Kramer on Monday urged Cote to give Weiner a significant prison sentence to end his “tragic cycle” of sexting.
When confronted by reporters last September after a story in the British tabloid, the Daily Mail, Weiner reportedly gave the girl’s email and photograph to several media outlets, who tracked her to her Gaston County home.
“I think it’s absurd and wrong. Weiner has already done enough to my 15-year-old daughter without adding to it more,” the girl’s said at the time.
Observer efforts to reach the family were unsuccessful.
The U.S. Attorney’s Office opened the original investigation but it was moved to New York. There, the FBI was investigating Weiner's contact with the high school student when it came across emails on his laptop between Abedin and Clinton, prompting then-FBI Director James Comey to announce in late October 2016 that he was reopening the probe of Clinton's use of a private computer server.
Two days before Election Day, the FBI announced there was nothing new in the emails. But Clinton has blamed Comey's handling of the episode more than any other factor for her loss to Donald Trump. In a recent NBC interview, she called the FBI director's intervention “the determining factor” in her defeat.
Weiner's lawyers had argued in court papers that he was undergoing treatment and was profoundly sorry for subjecting the girl to his “deep sickness.” They also portrayed her as an instigator, saying she wanted to generate material for a book and possibly influence the presidential election.
Prosecutors responded by arguing the victim's motives were irrelevant to the punishment and said Weiner's habit of getting caught sexting “suggests a dangerous level of denial and lack of self-control.”
Weiner, wearing his wedding ring, seemed pensive just before Monday's hearing began. His parents were in the courtroom but not his wife. He and Abedin, who have a 5-year-old, are going through divorce proceedings.
Weiner was also fined $10,000. After his sentence is served, he must undergo internet monitoring and must have no contact with his victim. He must also enroll in a sex-offender treatment program.
Before announcing the sentence, Cote said there was “no evidence of deviant interest in teenagers or minors” on Weiner's part. She also said he is finally receiving effective treatment for what she said has been described as “sexual hyperactivity.”
Weiner's behavior in all its lurid detail — including his online alias “Carlos Danger” and a selfie of his bulging underwear — turned him and his last name into an irresistible punchline for late-night comics and mortified his wife again and again.
In her new memoir, “What Happened,” Clinton revealed that Weiner's wife “looked stricken” and burst into tears upon learning her husband had triggered Comey's “October surprise.”
“This man is going to be the death of me,” Abedin was quoted as saying.