NEW YORK — Anthony Weiner, the former Democratic congressman whose sexting scandals ended his political career and embroiled him in a tumultuous FBI investigation of Hillary Clinton before the election, pleaded guilty to a felony Friday, crying openly as he admitted to conduct that he knew was “morally wrong as it was unlawful.”
The plea agreement ended a federal investigation into a series of sexually explicit pictures and messages that Weiner sent last year to a 15-year-old girl in North Carolina.
“I engaged in obscene communications with this teenager,” Weiner said. Those communications “included sharing explicit images and encouraging her to engage in sexually explicit conduct,” just as he had done with adult women, he said.
Weiner, 52, will have to register as a sex offender. He pleaded guilty to transferring obscene material to a minor, which carries a sentence of up to 10 years in prison.
Federal prosecutors said in the plea agreement that a sentence in the range of 21 to 27 months would be “fair and appropriate.” The decision ultimately lies with Judge Loretta A. Preska of U.S. District Court in New York City; sentencing is set for Sept. 8.
Reports of the federal investigation surfaced in September after DailyMail.com reported that Weiner had engaged in an online relationship with the girl, which included explicit messages sent over social media and suggestive texts.
It was during the investigation that the FBI seized Weiner’s electronic devices, including a laptop on which agents found a trove of emails to his estranged wife, Huma Abedin, a top aide to Clinton. That discovery led to the surprise announcement in late October by James Comey, then the FBI director, that the bureau was conducting a new investigation into Clinton’s handling of official email, an inquiry that ended two days before the election, with no charges brought.
Weiner told the court that in January 2016, he was contacted by — and began exchanging online messages with — “a stranger who said that she was a high school student, and who I understood to be 15 years old.”
Weiner’s marriage to Abedin fell apart after new suggestive text messages surfaced in August.