Former Democratic congressman Anthony Weiner should serve from 21 to 27 months in prison for his sexting scandal with a 15-year-old girl, Manhattan federal prosecutors said Wednesday in a sentencing memo that revealed he has shown an interest in “teen-themed pornography.”
Weiner, 53, whose estranged wife Huma Abedin has been a top aide to Hillary Clinton, wants 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 at his Monday sentencing.
“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 non-custodial sentence that Weiner proposes is simply inadequate; his crime deserves time in prison.”
Prosecutors also sharply disputed Weiner’s claim that he has no sexual interest in minors, describing graphic details of lewd flirts with the North Carolina teen and revealing that he told a court-appointed evaluator her age “did matter to him” and admitted “an interest in legal, adult, teen-themed pornography.”
While he is not a pedophile, the government said, “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.”
Weiner quit Congress in 2011 after a series of exhibitionist episodes over the internet with adult women became public. The sexting scandal with the teen in early 2016 led to discovery of new Clinton emails last fall and a reopening of an FBI probe into her email practices, damaging her presidential 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 chats 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 said. “ . . . 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 five-year-old son, sought leniency by claiming that he is not sexually deviant, and is progressing well in treatment, and argued to Cote that the teenager had lured him into their encounters in hopes of manufacturing a story she could sell.
But prosecutors dismissed that complaint — “Weiner should be sentenced for what he did — not what motivated the Minor Victim,” they wrote — and said his long history of exposure, repentance and more sexting eroded their confidence in treatment.
“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.
The memo also noted that in Congress Weiner once sponsored the “Keeping the Internet Devoid of Sexual Predators (KIDS) Act,” demonstrating an understanding of the risks posed to minors 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 government said.