NEW YORK - Former Rep. Anthony Weiner was sentenced Monday to 21 months in prison for sexting with a 15-year-old girl in a case that rocked Hillary Clinton’s campaign for the White House in the closing days of the race and may have cost her the presidency.
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 a North Carolina teenager.
He 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.
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.
Key events in the saga of Anthony Weiner, the former New York congressman who pleaded guilty Friday to transmitting sexual material to a minor:
Nov. 3: Weiner, a Democrat, is elected to Congress.
Sept 13: Weiner comes in second in a bid for the Democratic nomination for mayor of New York City.
July 10: Weiner weds Huma Abedin, a close aide to then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Former President Bill Clinton officiates.
May 27: A lewd photograph of a man’s underwear-clad crotch is sent from Weiner’s Twitter account, and then is quickly taken down.
May 29: A spokesman says Weiner’s accounts were hacked and calls the burgeoning social media scandal “a distraction.”
June 6: Weiner tearfully admits to sending the lewd photo and then lying repeatedly to protect himself. He refuses to resign.
June 11: Weiner seeks a temporary leave of absence from the House while he seeks professional treatment. A spokeswoman says he will focus on “becoming a better husband and healthier person.”
June 16: Weiner says he is resigning from Congress during a news conference in Brooklyn interrupted by hecklers. Weiner apologizes “for the personal mistakes I have made and the embarrassment I have caused.”
May 22: Weiner launches his re-entry into the world of politics with a run for New York City mayor, asking voters for a second chance.
July 22: With Weiner leading in the polls, a gossip website posts sexually explicit messages it says were exchanged between Weiner and a woman later identified as Indiana native Sydney Leathers. The woman claims Weiner used the alias “Carlos Danger” for their exchanges.
July 23: Weiner says he won’t drop out of mayoral race, saying at a news conference: “This is entirely behind me.”
Sept. 10: Weiner finishes fifth in Democratic mayoral primary.
Aug. 28: The New York Post publishes photos the newspaper says Weiner sent the previous year to a “40-something” divorced woman. One bulging-underwear shot shows his and Abedin’s toddler son cuddling next to him.
Aug. 29: Abedin says she is separating from Weiner.
Sept. 21: The DailyMail.com publishes an interview with a 15-year-old girl who says she had sexually explicit online text and video exchanges with Weiner. Weiner acknowledges communications but also claims he’s been the subject of a hoax. FBI agents soon begin investigating Weiner’s communications with the girl, seizing his computer.
Oct. 28: In a letter to Congress, then-FBI Director James Comey says his agency is investigating whether there is classified information in newly discovered emails of former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, now the Democratic presidential nominee. The emails, containing correspondence between Clinton and Abedin, were discovered on the Weiner computer seized in the sexting investigation.
Nov. 6: Two days before the presidential election, Comey tells Congress a review of the newly discovered emails hasn’t changed the FBI’s view that Clinton should not face charges over her handling of classified information.
May 19: Weiner pleads guilty to criminal charges in connection with his online communications with the 15-year-old girl.
Sept. 25: A federal judge sentences Weiner to 21 months in prison, orders him to report to prison in November.