Ex-US Rep. Anthony Weiner pleads guilty in sexting case

NEW YORK (AP) — Former U.S. Rep. Anthony Weiner, whose penchant for sexting strangers ended his political career and sparked a probe that upended the presidential race, pleaded guilty Friday to a sex charge, tearfully apologizing for communications with a 15-year-old girl that he said destroyed his “life’s dream in public service.”

Weiner pleaded guilty to a single count of transmitting sexual material to a minor, admitting he began exchanging online messages with the girl in January 2015 and engaged in obscene communications that included “sharing explicit images and encouraging her to engage in sexually explicit conduct.”

“I have a sickness, but I do not have an excuse,” he said.

The 52-year-old former Democratic congressman paused repeatedly as he fought back tears and tried to compose himself. He said he knew the texting was “as morally wrong as it was unlawful.”

Pleading to the charge, which will require that he register as a sex offender, exposes him to a potential sentence of up to 10 years in prison, but Weiner signed a plea agreement with prosecutors in which he agreed not to appeal any sentence between 21 and 27 months in prison. His lawyer can request leniency at a sentencing scheduled for Sept. 8.

Wearing his wedding ring and a dark blue suit with a maroon tie, Weiner read from a prepared statement after U.S. District Judge Loretta A. Preska addressed him: “Tell me what you did, sir.”

He said he “compulsively sought attention from women who contacted me on social media” beginning with his service in Congress and continuing through the first half of last year.

“I engaged with many of them in both sexual and nonsexual conversation,” he said. “These destructive impulses brought great devastation to my family and friends and destroyed my life’s dream in public service. Yet I remained in denial even as the world around me fell apart.”

Weiner said he began getting mental health treatment beginning in the fall, when he said he “came to grips for the first time with the depths of my sickness.” He said he continues to follow the treatment daily.

“I, I had hit bottom,” he said. “Through treatment I found the courage to take a moral inventory of my defects.”

Weiner apologized to “everyone I have hurt,” including the girl he “mistreated so badly.”

Finished speaking, he wiped his eyes with tissues.