NEW YORK – Former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner deserves about two years in prison for engaging in sexting with a 15-year-old girl despite his claims that he has been reformed, prosecutors said Wednesday.
A Manhattan judge is scheduled to sentence the New York Democrat on Monday for transferring obscene material to a minor. The government urged the judge to put Weiner’s claims of a therapeutic awakening in a context of a man who made similar claims after embarrassing, widely publicized interactions with adult women in the past.
“This is not merely a ‘sexting’ case,” prosecutors wrote. “The defendant did far more than exchange typed words on a lifeless cellphone screen with a faceless stranger. … Transmitting obscenity to a minor to induce her to engage in sexually explicit conduct by video chat and photo – is far from mere ‘sexting.’ Weiner’s criminal conduct was very serious, and the sentence imposed should reflect that seriousness.”
Weiner, 53, said in a submission last week that he’s undergoing treatment and is profoundly sorry for subjecting the North Carolina high school student to what his lawyers called his “deep sickness.”
Prosecutors attacked some of Weiner’s arguments for seeking leniency and noted his full awareness that what he was doing was a crime, citing his co-sponsorship in January 2007 of a bill to require sex offenders to register their email and instant message addresses with the National Sex Offender Registry.
“While the government does not contend that Weiner engaged in inappropriate sexual exchanges with other minors or that he is a pedophile, his professed ambivalence toward the minor victim’s age is belied by the defendant’s own statements to the court-appointed evaluator during his evaluation,” they said.
Prosecutors said Weiner, who unsuccessfully ran for mayor in 2005 and 2013, acknowledged to the evaluator an interest in legal, adult, teen-themed pornography.
The government said Weiner’s “widely-reported prior scandals” were not criminal in nature and did not involve minors but should be considered at sentencing because they reveal a familiar pattern.
“He initially denied his conduct; he suffered personal and professional consequences; he publicly apologized and claimed reform. Yet, he has, on multiple occasions, continued to engage in the very conduct he swore off, progressing from that which is self-destructive to that which is also destructive to a teenage girl,” prosecutors said.
They added: “Weiner’s demonstrated history of professed, yet failed, reform make it difficult to rely on his present claim of self-awareness and transformation.”
Defense lawyers had portrayed the girl as an aggressor, saying she wanted to generate material for a book and possibly influence the presidential election.
Prosecutors responded that Weiner should be sentenced for what he did, and the motives of the victim should not influence his punishment.
As part of a plea bargain, Weiner has agreed not to appeal any sentence between 21 and 27 months. Prosecutors said the sentence should fall within that span, and they noted that Probation Department authorities had recommended a 27-month prison term.
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