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 U.S. District Judge Denise Cote. As the judge and spectators filed out of the courtroom, he sat crying quietly with his head down and his attorneys silent beside him. He must surrender to prison officials by Nov. 6.
“I have a disease, but I have no excuses,” he had told the judge earlier, reading from a statement he held with trembling hands. “I’m an addict.”
Weiner’s lawyers argued that he was getting intensive therapy for the first time, reporting almost daily to group and individual therapy sessions.
Cote acknowledged those efforts in her sentencing remarks. Still, she said, it was important to use his case as a deterrent to other would-be child abusers.
“Because of the defendant’s notoriety, there is intense interest in this prosecution. This is an opportunity to make a statement that can protect other minors,” she said.
Weiner, 53, once a rising star in Democratic politics, was married to Hillary Clinton’s top aide, Huma Abedin, who is in the process of divorcing him. While investigating Weiner, the FBI stumbled on to Abedin’s laptop, which in turn led to then-FBI Director James Comey’s fateful announcement 11 days before the election that he was reopening the probe into Clinton’s email — which Clinton says played a large part in her defeat to Donald Trump.
Weiner pleaded guilty in May to a count of transferring obscene material to a minor in hopes of receiving a reduced sentence.
Making the case more politically fraught, the victim, who was 15 at the time, has admitted she was motivated by the presidential election. The North Carolina girl initiated the contact with Weiner and sold her story, twice — first to Britain’s tabloid Daily Mail, which paid her $30,000, and more recently to the syndicated TV show “Inside Edition,” which paid her $10,000 and flew her with her father to New York.
“I knew that Hillary Clinton would be running for president in the year 2016 and I wanted to see if Anthony was still up to the same antics,” she told the television program.
The girl’s name has not been published because of her age, but she appeared on camera on her porch in front of a large U.S. flag and her father spoke on camera without his name or face being revealed.
She is now shopping a book.
Federal prosecutors, who had requested a sentence of 21 to 27 months, argued that the victim’s motivation and conduct have no bearing on Weiner’s culpability.
“The fact that Anthony Weiner is sitting here today is sad,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Amanda Kramer told the judge. “But there is a history here that simply cannot be ignored.”
Kim asked for a 21- to 27-month prison sentence. “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,” federal prosecutors argued in a pre-sentencing memo.
In 1999, Weiner won the congressional seat being vacated by his mentor, now-Sen. Charles Schumer. His wedding in 2010 to Abedin was officiated by former President Bill Clinton. But his career repeatedly was derailed over sexually explicit texts to women he met on the internet.
He had to resign from Congress in 2011 over a sexting scandal. After promising never to do it again, yet another scandal in 2013 scuttled his race to become New York’s mayor.
“Anthony has a sickness,” his attorney Arlo Devlin-Brown told the judge. But “the repeated acts of self-destruction are not the acts of a scheming criminal.”
By 2016, his attorney acknowledged, Weiner “had exchanged thousands of messages with hundreds of women” — all of them adults except for the North Carolina girl.
The attorney said Weiner was not like other predators who seek out minors.
“Other cases involved defendants trolling the internet looking for victims to exploit. This case starts with the opposite — with the victim reaching out to Anthony,” said Devlin-Brown.
Weiner never attempted to meet the teenager or any of the other women in person, but he did ask her to disrobe on a Skype call and to perform sexual acts. He has acknowledged that he knew the girl was 15.
The fact that Weiner’s sexual peccadilloes all took place in cyberspace has been more shocking to the public than politicians’ actual affairs of the flesh. Trump has called Weiner a “sleeze and a pervert” and called the case “just another example of Hillary Clinton’s bad judgment.”
Abedin was not in the courtroom for the sentencing, but Weiner’s mother and brother attended. The couple are in the process of divorcing.
Weiner told the court he spends his days going to individual and group therapy sessions. His iPhone has been taken away.
“I focus on how to live my new small life one day at a time,” he told the court.