Anthony Weiner pleads guilty to obscenity charges

I have a confession to make.  Anthony Weiner’s story is a big inspiration for this site.  He is the quintessential example of “death by social media”.  Not to be too crude but, given his last name and the part that seemed to dictate most of his thinking, the puns wrote themselves.  However, let’s give a brief overview of what led us here.

Back in 2011, Americans received a crash course in Twitter.  Specifically, we learned the difference between a post and a direct message.  Weiner, sent a picture of..err..let’s say “Little Anthony” out to all his Twitter followers.  His political opponents pounced.  Facing pressure from his leadership in the Democratic party, he was forced to resign from Congress.  No doubt, this led to some tensions at home for the married ex-congressman, also.

In 2013, Anthony Weiner attempted a political comeback.  He ran for mayor of New York and was considered a contender.  He claimed to be a changed man.

Then, it happened again.

He didn’t fall back into old habits — he apparently never stopped.  A woman came forward with a devastating claim: in 2012, she exchange sexually-explicit messages and pictures with Weiner. She says it went on for months.  Anthony Weiner originally contacted the woman on the social network Formspring. He kept it clean there but, after the two exchanged email, it got dirty.  Under the infamous moniker, “Carlos Danger”, Weiner used his Yahoo! Mail account to send pictures of his private parts to the woman.

On September 10, 2013, Anthony Weiner conceded after coming in fifth in the New York mayoral primary.  It was noted that his wife was absent during his concession speech.

This brings us to his latest scandal.  In late October 2016, FBI Director James Comey announced a re-opening of the investigation in Hillary Clinton’s email.  This news shook the political world and, by a number of estimates, greatly impacted the outcome of the Presidential election.  What’s been lost in the details is that the investigation was reopened due to what they found in another investigation.  It was the investigation into alleged sexually-charged exchanges between Anthony Weiner and a 15-year-old girl.

Investigators had seized an iPhone and a laptop owned by Weiner.  On it, they found emails sent from Clinton to Huma Abedin, the now-estranged wife of Anthony Weiner.  At one point, it seems, they shared use of this laptop or, at least the iCloud account used to keep the data on their devices in-sync.   Nine days later, the FBI director announced that Clinton, again, had been cleared, just two days shy of Election Day.

The investigation into Weiner continued.  During this time, investigators found out that this relationship went on for months.  The two had communicated on several platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, Kik and Confide.  The girl says she reached out to him via Twitter in late January 2016.  According to the girl, she had an obsession with him.  The 50+ year-old Weiner reciprocated and then escalated.  Casual messages on Twitter led to him sending her a friend request on Facebook.  Conversation on Facebook led to flirting and, later, full-blown sexting between the middle-aged Weiner and this high-school girl.  At some point, he began communicating with her under the alias of “T Dog”.

At some point, Weiner began sending nude pics to the girl over Confide.  Like SnapChat, the app supposedly deletes pictures after they are viewed.  However, this didn’t prevent her from taking screenshots.  According to the girl, the two also communicated over Skype.

By spring, according to the 15-year-old, his sexual exchanges grew more aggressive.  According to her, he would tell her of rape fantasies he had about her.  This grew too much for the teenager and, unable to bear the guilt of this secret relationship, she told her father and her teacher about her exchanges with the ex-Congressman.  According to the teen, Weiner then crafted letters for the girl to give to her father and her teacher, to have her say she made it all up.  The two finally ended communication in July.

Though the girl and her father declined to press charges, this did not prevent the Attorney General for the state of New York from opening an investigation.  If the case went to trial, Weiner would be facing child pornography charges.  With the evidence clearly against him, Weiner accepted a plea deal.

Today, in federal court, Anthony Weiner openly wept as he pleaded guilty to transferring obscene material to a minor.  Under the terms of the deal,  the prosecutors ask that Weiner serve up to 27 months behind bars and have to register as a sex offender.  However, it is up to a judge to accept the prosecutors’ recommendations.  He could walk away with just probation or he could be sentenced up to 10 years in jail.

Regardless of the legal outcome, as a result his online actions, it is hard not to say Anthony Weiner’s public life is finished.

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An opinionated technologist, JP launched Death By Social Media when he saw just how easily and how often people's misunderstanding/abuse of social media created personal catastrophes. As a result, he wanted to provide a resource that would provide cautionary tales for those seeking to avoid similar fates.