The Daily Mail reported Wednesday morning that Anthony Weiner allegedly sexted with a minor, a 15-year-old girl, over several months. The stomach-churning report alleges that Weiner knew the girl was underage, and asked her to discuss "rape fantasies" and to undress for him over Skype chat. These shocking allegations have led many to wonder whether Weiner could go to jail.
When The Daily Mail approached Weiner about the claims, he provided the website with emails which he claimed had been sent to him by the girl. He also released the following statement:
I have repeatedly demonstrated terrible judgement about the people I have communicated with online and the things I have sent.
I am filled with regret and heartbroken for those I have hurt.
While I have provided the Daily Mail with information showing that I have likely been the subject of a hoax, I have no one to blame but me for putting myself in this position.
I am sorry.
Could these allegations lead to criminal charges for Weiner? The girl's father told The Daily Mail that he did not contact authorities because his daughter's "mental health is in jeopardy and [he] didn't want to exacerbate anything that she has mentally going on." According to The New York Daily News, NYPD Police Commissioner James O'Neill was not aware of any allegations against Weiner.
However, if the 15-year-old's allegations about her exchanges with Weiner are true, charges may still be forthcoming. The girl described the alleged Skype chats to The Daily Mail:
We would talk, just chatting for about 30 minutes and it would lead to more sexual things… asking me to undress… he'd comment on my body. He asked me about masturbation, and that kind of thing.
If she undressed during video chats with Weiner, he might be charged with possession of child pornography, which in the United States refers to "visual depiction of sexually explicit conduct involving a minor," regardless of the age of consent in the state in question. The U.S. Department of Justice also notes that federal jurisdiction often applies when these images are sent over the internet.
In early 2011, Weiner was the subject of =allegations regarding messages he had sent to a 17-year-old. He claimed that the messages were "neither explicit nor indecent." That girl's family told The New York Times that the messages were "harmless." At the time, however, New York attorney Todd Spodek told Radar Online that sending any sexual material to a minor could result in criminal charges and possibly jail time.
In the second of two emails Weiner shared with The Daily Mail, the girl (who confirmed that she had written the letter in question) claimed to be writing a book about Weiner, implied that her digital relationship with the former congressman was part of her research, and made several statements negatively referencing presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. That letter might shed light on her intentions in reaching out to Weiner, but if the allegations about lewd video and text chats are accurate, her initial intentions are entirely irrelevant to criminal charges.