NEW YORK — Anthony Weiner, whose repeated “sexting” scandals cost him his seat in Congress, his bid to become mayor of New York City, and possibly Hillary Clinton’s chances at the presidency, was sentenced Monday to 21 months in prison.
His inability to control his habit of exchanging lewd texts and pictures with women fueled his long and tortuous downfall. But it was his most recent exchanges with a 15-year-old girl that were the most personally ruinous, ending his marriage and resulting in his criminal conviction and a prison sentence.
Until now, Weiner, 53, had been the beneficiary of multiple second chances, resurrecting his political savvy and promise amid earnest vows that he had learned his lesson.
But this time, there would be no second chance for Weiner, who pleaded guilty in May to one count of transferring obscene material to a minor, and had faced up to 10 years in prison.
Before the sentence was pronounced, Weiner tried to make a case that he had accepted responsibility for his crime, and that he was a changed man.
“I acted not only unlawfully but immorally, and if I had done the right thing, I would not be standing before you today,” he said, crying as he addressed the judge.
Reports of the federal investigation that led to Weiner’s being charged in the case first surfaced after the 15-year-old victim’s story was told in a DailyMail.com exposé in September 2016.
It was during that investigation that the FBI discovered on Weiner’s laptop a trove of
e-mails belonging to his wife, Huma Abedin, a senior aide to Clinton — which led to an announcement in late October by James Comey, then the FBI director, that the bureau had opened a new inquiry into Clinton’s handling of official e-mail.
The inquiry ended two days before the election. Clinton has blamed Comey in part for her defeat.
Judge Denise L. Cote of US District Court in Manhattan told Weiner that his offense was “a serious crime that deserves serious punishment.”
She said she agreed with Weiner’s lawyers’ contention that he was finally receiving effective treatment for a disease of sexual compulsion, that he was engaging in sex addiction therapy, and was making what she called “an enormous contribution” to others suffering from that disease.
“But the difficulty here,” Cote said, “is that this is a very strong compulsion.” It was so strong, she added, that despite “two very public disclosures and the destruction of his career on two occasions, he continued with the activity.”
After the hearing ended and Cote had left the bench, Weiner remained seated between his lawyers at the defense table, bent deeply forward in his chair, sobbing, his face in his hands. The judge also fined Weiner $10,000 and said he must surrender Nov. 6.
During the hearing, Weiner looked tense and serious, sometimes clenching his jaw. When the judge asked if he wanted to speak, he rose and read from a statement. By his third sentence, his voice began to break, and he paused often to clear his throat. “I was a very sick man for a very long time,” he said.
“I’ve had a disease but I have no excuse,” he continued. “I accept complete and total responsibility for my crime.’’