The man whose inner demons destroyed not one but possibly two political careers will have a new one: convict. The New York Times reports that former Congressman Anthony Weiner will plead guilty in federal court to a single count of transferring obscene material to a minor, a result of his sexting a 15-year-old girl in the United Kingdom. The charge brings an end to the case, and might put Weiner behind bars … or might not:
Anthony D. Weiner, the former Democratic congressman whose “sexting” scandals ended his political career and embroiled him in a tumultuous F.B.I. investigation of Hillary Clinton before the election, is to appear in a federal courtroom in Manhattan on Friday to enter a guilty plea.
The information has not been made public but was related by two people who have been briefed on the matter and asked not to be identified.
Mr. Weiner will plead guilty to a single charge of transferring obscene material to a minor, pursuant to a plea agreement with the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan, one of the people said. Mr. Weiner surrendered to the F.B.I. early Friday morning.
According to the statute (18 USC 1470), the charge could result in a prison term of as long as ten years, so this isn’t just a little misdemeanor. It’s the end of practically any remaining hope for Weiner to ever work in politics again. The judge will take his lack of prior conviction into account for sentencing, but may also take into account Weiner’s strange compulsion in sexting — which not only ruined his marriage but his career, and arguably played a role in Hillary Clinton’s loss last November. (Arguably.) It’s possible that the judge will let him go with probation as a first offender, so don’t necessarily expect a long prison sentence.
One other point to bear in mind about this plea deal, at least as described by the Times. It only covers Weiner’s conduct over the first three months of last year. If Weiner didn’t sext any other underage girls before or after that period, he’s in the clear. Presumably, the FBI has checked out his communications well enough to establish that no other crimes have been committed. If more emerges, however, Weiner would still be criminally liable for them, and might find himself right back in the same court.
The hearing will take place at 11 am today, so we’ll know more then about any prison time Weiner will get, plus whether and how long he may have to register as a sex offender. It’s been a long way to rock bottom for Weiner, who ran for mayor in the city in which he’ll plead out just a few short years ago, but perhaps he might finally dispense with his peculiar demons after hitting it.
Update, 11:23 am ET: As expected, Weiner pled guilty, and looks like he’ll get some significant prison time:
Weiner agreed Friday not to appeal any sentence between 21 and 27 months in prison.
The judge told him he would have to register as a sex offender.
That doesn’t mean he’ll get that sentence, but it appears that prosecutors have already negotiated the prison time. The judge will almost certainly accept that, unless there’s profound reason to ignore it.