Former Democratic congressman Anthony Weiner should serve 21 to 27 months in prison for his sexting scandal with a teenage girl, Manhattan federal prosecutors said Wednesday in a letter to the sentencing judge that revealed he has shown an interest in “teen-themed pornography.”
Weiner, 52, whose estranged wife, Huma Abedin, has been a top aide to Hillary Clinton, has asked for no jail time, but the government told U.S. District Judge Denise Cote that his crime was too serious and the need for deterrence was too great to let him go scot-free. His sentencing is scheduled for Monday.
“Although the defendant’s self-destructive path from United States Congressman to felon is indisputably sad, his crime is serious and his demonstrated need for deterrence is real,” prosecutors wrote. “The noncustodial sentence that Weiner proposes is simply inadequate; his crime deserves time in prison.”
After a series of exhibitionist episodes over the internet led to Weiner’s resignation from Congress, his sexting scandal with a North Carolina teen in early 2016 led to the discovery of emails from Clinton last fall that caused the FBI to reopen its probe of the Democratic presidential candidate’s email practices, damaging her campaign.
He pleaded guilty in May. Prosecutors said in the memo filed Wednesday that early on in their exchanges Weiner learned from the girl that she was in high school, but they began engaging in flirtatious exchanges that quickly became “more lascivious.”
Eventually, the government said, he “used graphic and obscene language to ask the Minor Victim to display her naked body and touch herself,” and “sent an obscene message . . . describing what he would do to her if she were 18.”
“This is not merely a ‘sexting’ case,” prosecutors argued. “The defendant did far more than exchange typed words on a lifeless cellphone screen with a faceless stranger. With full knowledge that he was communicating with a real 15-year-old girl, the defendant asked her to engage in sexually explicit conduct via Skype and Snapchat, where her body was on display, and where she was asked to sexually perform for him.”
Federal sentencing guidelines called for Weiner to get the maximum sentence, 10 years, but prosecutors agreed as part of his plea deal to seek only 21 to 27 months. Probation officials, the memo said, have called for 27 months.
Weiner, who has a 5-year-old son, sought leniency by claiming that he is not sexually deviant and is progressing well in treatment. Prosecutors said they don’t believe he is a pedophile, but statements he made to a court-appointed evaluator indicate her age “did matter to him,” and he has “acknowledged an interest in legal, adult, teen-themed pornography.”
“In the context of this admitted interest his insistence that he deserves a lighter sentence because the Minor Victim’s age meant nothing to him rings hollow,” the memo said.
Prosecutors also dismissed complaints from Weiner that the teenager had lured him in hopes of manufacturing a story that she could sell for profit. “Weiner should be sentenced for what he did — not what motivated the Minor Victim,” they told the judge.
The government dismissed Wiener’s claims that he is responding well to treatment and not likely to engage in similar conduct, noting his history of repeated sexting with adult women.
“Weiner’s demonstrated history of professed, yet failed, reform make it difficult to rely on his present claim of self-awareness and transformation,” the government said.
And prosecutors also pointed out that in Congress, Weiner once sponsored the Keeping the Internet Devoid of Sexual Predators (KIDS) Act, demonstrating an understanding of the risks posed to minor by internet sex voyeurs.
“With that depth of awareness, the fact that the defendant engaged in the instant conduct suggests a dangerous level of denial and lack of self-control warranting a meaningful incarceratory sentence,” the memo said.