Disgraced former congressman Anthony Weiner pleaded guilty today in New York to a sexting relationship with a Gaston County teenager that may have helped turn the presidential election.
According to the New York Times, Weiner cried openly in court as he admitted to conduct that was “as morally wrong as it was unlawful ... I engaged in obscene communications with this teenager.”
He promised to make amends to those he has hurt, including the teen, “whom I’ve treated so badly,” the Times said, quoting Weiner’s courtroom statement.
Federal officials learned of the online tryst between Weiner and the then-15-year-old, high school sophomore’s last September through a story by the British tabloid, the Daily Mail. When confronted, Weiner, who has been dogged by episodes of sexual misconduct throughout his political career, handed over the girl’s email and photograph to several media outlets.
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The case eventually led to the reopening, only days before the presidential vote, of the FBI’s investigation into how Democrat Hillary Clinton handled her email as secretary of state.
Weiner, a Democrat, was married to top Clinton aide Huma Abedin at the time he began conversing with the Gaston teen. When FBI agents later seized Weiner’s home computer as part of the sexting probe, they discovered thousands of Clinton’s emails, which Abedin had apparently forwarded to Weiner for printing.
With the presidential election a week away and Clinton the presumed front-runner over Donald Trump, then-FBI Director James Comey announced he was reopening the probe of Clinton’s email. While the FBI said two days before the election that no charges would be brought, Clinton has blamed her loss on Comey’s announcement. Comey has since been fired by Trump.
Observer efforts to reach the Gaston County girl and her family have been unsuccessful. Her continued anonymity set off post-election online conspiracy theories among Clinton supporters that the teen was a plant by the Trump campaign or its Russian allies. Both the Daily Mail and the New York Daily News said they had confirmed her identity.
The Daily Mail said the teen started following Weiner on Twitter in January 2016. Their conversations eventually veered into more graphic tones during emails and video chats, with the Daily Mail publishing screen grabs of some of the alleged exchanges. Weiner knew the girl was underage, the teen and father told the publication. The girl alerted her father and a teacher to the relationship a year ago April.
She and her father said they agreed to talk out of concern that Weiner, who was driven out of Congress and the 2013 New York mayoral race due to highly publicized and sexually charged online relationships with other women, might be a threat to other underage girls.
Under Weiner’s plea, he must register as a sex offender, the Times said. The charge, one count of transferring obscene material to a minor, carries a sentence of either no jail time or a prison sentence of up to 10 years. As part of the plea agreement, prosecutors said a sentence of 21 to 27 months would be “fair and appropriate.”
On Sept. 8, a judge will have the final say.