the punishment of Anthony Weiner

 

 

Roger W. Smith

email to Anthony Weiner

September 27, 2017

 

 

Dear Mr. Weiner,

I feel terribly sorry for you.

YOU are a victim.

Of malicious prosecutors and an inhuman judge.

Who refuse to acknowledge your contrition and progress in therapy.

And of a legal system which is making you out be a monster for what was a foolish but petty transgression.

 

Roger W. Smith

Maspeth, NY

 

 

*****************************************************

 

Former congressman Anthony Weiner has been sentenced to 21 months in prison for having illicit contact on line with a 15-year-old girl using Skype and Snapchat. Weiner was also fined $10,000. After his sentence is served, he must undergo internet monitoring. He must also enroll in a sex-offender treatment program. He will be required to register as a convicted sex offender where he lives or works for the rest of his life.

Weiner has no prior criminal record, has pledged himself to rehabilitation, and has been undergoing a rigorous program of group therapy and treatment by Sex Addicts Anonymous.

In May 2017, Weiner pleaded guilty to transferring obscene material to a minor, stemming from interactions he had with a 15-year-old girl from England. The Daily Mail had published an article about the illicit online exchange, based upon an interview with the girl. The incident came after a barrage of revelations about Weiner’s explicit communications with women he met on the internet. Weiner is married and has a five-year-old son. His wife has filed for divorce.

Previous incidents of sexting by Weiner that were publicized had resulted in his resignation from Congress and public humiliation for him.

 

 

*****************************************************

 

WHAT THE PROSECUTORS SAID:

 

The prosecutors, Amanda Kramer and Stephanie Lake, in their sentencing papers, said probation was “simply inadequate.” (The government had recommended a sentence within the range of 21 to 27 months.) “There is a history here that simply cannot be ignored,” Ms. Kramer said in court. “What is required here to stop the defendant from re-offending, to fully pierce his denial and end this tragic cycle is a meaningful term of imprisonment.”

 

 

WHAT WEINER’S LAWYERS SAID:

Weiner’s lawyers, Arlo Devlin-Brown and Erin Monju, had sought probation for him, citing what they described as Weiner’s “remarkable progress” in the treatment program he is participating in. In court, Mr. Devlin-Brown asked the judge to hold out prison as a possibility if necessary, “but not apply it now, and give an opportunity for something positive to emerge from the wreckage of all of this.”

Mr. Devlin-Brown, in a statement, cited a comment by the judge that Weiner’s sentence might send a cautionary message to other sex addicts. “We certainly hope this public service message is received,” he said, “but it has resulted in a punishment more severe than it had to be, given the unusual facts and circumstances of the case.”

One of Weiner’s lawyers emphasized in court during his sentencing that he is the father of a five-year-old boy, whose continued contact with Mr. Weiner could be instrumental to his recovery.

In addition, Mr. Devlin-Brown cited Weiner’s commitment to rehabilitation as a reason not to send Weiner to prison at all, arguing that it would disrupt the “remarkable progress” he has made in therapy.

 

 

WHAT WEINER SAID AT HIS SENTENCING:

 

“I acted not only unlawfully but immorally, and if I had done the right thing, I would not be standing before you today. The prosecutors are skeptical that I have truly changed and I don’t blame them. I repeatedly acted in an obviously destructive way when I was caught.”

“I was a very sick man for a very long time. I have a disease but I have no excuse. I accept complete and total responsibility for my crime. I was the adult.”

 

 

WHAT THE JUDGE SAID:

 

The judge, Denise L. Cote of Federal District Court in Manhattan, told Mr. Weiner that his offense was “a serious crime that deserves serious punishment.” She said that there was a uniform opinion among those who had examined him that he had “a disease that involves sexual compulsivity; some call it a sex addiction.” She said Mr. Weiner was finally receiving “effective treatment for this disease,” including attending group therapy and Sex Addicts Anonymous. “I find he is making an enormous contribution to others who are suffering from that same disease. But the difficulty here, is that this is a very strong compulsion, so strong [that] despite two very public disclosures and the destruction of his career on two occasions, he continued with the activity.”

Judge Cote also said that because of Mr. Weiner’s notoriety, there was “intense interest in this prosecution, in his plea, and his sentence. … So there is the opportunity to make a statement that could protect other minors.”

 

 

WHAT THE U.S. ATTORNEY SAID:

 

Joon H. Kim, the acting United States attorney in Manhattan, said Mr. Weiner’s sentence was “just” and “appropriate.”

 

 

 

*****************************************************

 

 

THE NEW YORK TIMES EDITORIAL BOARD (“The Wreckage of Anthony Weiner.” editorial, September 25, 2017)

 

As painful as it is to watch a life in ruins, Mr. Weiner brought degradation upon himself. No public penance on his part, no acknowledgment of a sexual addiction, no level of commitment to rehabilitation, no expressed regrets for having turned lives upside down, could absolve him of grave sin. This former New York congressman had repeatedly exchanged lewd texts with a 15-year-old girl. That made him not just a moral transgressor. It made him a criminal. … The year and nine months given him by Judge Denise Cote qualified as an act of grace, as did her hope that, once freed, he would find a way to be “engaged productively.” … To put it bluntly, Anthony Weiner — smart, often witty, politically deft, at one time plausibly a strong candidate for New York mayor — proved to be a pathetic jerk. But few jerks do as much damage as he did in his recklessness. He may even be responsible for Donald Trump being president. … He certainly was the ruination of himself. “I was a very sick man for a very long time,” he told the judge before she sentenced him. Not many would have disagreed when he then said, “I have no excuse.”

 

Comment by Roger W. Smith: This is stern moralizing by holier than thou creeps, which is what they are, to put it bluntly. They have suddenly gotten religion. What they can’t forgive Mr. Weiner for is the “sin” of supposedly derailing Hillary Clinton’s bid for the presidency. This to them is a mortal sin, far outweighing his other transgressions, which they could really care less about (despite pretending otherwise). Compassion and human understanding are not their concern.

Also, Mr. Weiner has become an EMBARRASSMENT. His “sins” really are negligible in the overall scope of things. Yes, negligible. He had no prior criminal record and engaged in activity that got him into trouble legally only once. He had no physical or personal contact (other than “virtual contact”) with the girl and did do something inappropriate and illegal, but not something that deserves jail time. (Many Times readers feel as I do; see below.) He doesn’t have friends left in the right places, though, because he is seen as a loser and creep (“pathetic jerk”) in the Times editorial writers’ opinion (despite having been on the “right side” politically when it comes to Timesthink), which, you can be sure, represents the thinking of “right thinking” people (those who consider themselves ashamed of Mr. Weiner). Once they no longer approve of you, watch out!

 

 

*****************************************************

 

COMMENTS BY NEW YORK TIMES READERS:

 

 

It’s hard to defend Anthony Weiner but someone has to. His crimes were crimes of ideas, thoughts and fantasies. No one was physically touched, no one was ever physically harmed. They all participated and if they felt he was bothering him they could have easily ‘deleted’ him. Sure, the guy has issues, but they are his issues and none of our business. He is fully aware of the irreparable damage that his obsessiveness with sexual fantasy with people he has met online has caused in him. His job as congressman, his rehabilitation, his marriage. I can see the judge taking away his cell phone for 21 months, but not putting him in jail.

 

 

The worst sadness in all this is his son. Weiner is seriously ill and was unable to control his devastating impulses. Why subject his son to 21 months without him when it has been shown he has improved with now, the right treatment and hasn’t offended in a year. His son needs him at his delicate age more than Weiner needs a jail cell, with seemingly less therapy available. Why didn’t the judge consider his long-suffering wife when she asked, because of their son, not to jail him. So the judge sentenced his son to possibly a much longer sentence than his father…. Sad. Judge, very sad.

 

 

What is wrong with our legal system? Anthony Weiner is a sick man, he has a mental illness. So we’re going to send him to prison for nearly two years? Bankers and lenders who engage in practices that nearly destroy the economy, and bankrupt thousands and thousands of innocent people, never spend a day in prison, not even one of the nice “white collar” ones but someone with a severe addiction is sentenced to prison. What’s wrong with this picture? Everything.

 

 

Am I the only one who thinks 21 months for sexting is ridiculous? There wasn’t even any contact.

 

 

While I don’t approve of Weiner’s action(s) and am livid at both he and his wife for their role in the 2016 election disaster, I have to wonder if 21 months for sending pictures to a teenager is a tad draconian. There were pictures. There was no physical contact. The girl was 15, not 11. She was never in any physical danger and was free to end the session(s) at any time.

The leap from jailing someone for sending pictures to jailing someone for making a lewd comment to jailing someone for thinking lewd thoughts is not as great as one might imagine. I suggest that those calling for blood in this case take a deep breath and do some deep thinking.

 

 

Anthony Weiner should not go to jail. He has treatable illness and the place for treatment is through the medical system not the prison system. His crimes were crimes of fantasy and he never so much as physically touched a “victim” who could have easily “deleted” him instead of egging him on. He has already lost enough. His job, his aspirations of political rehabilitation, his privacy, his marriage. Take a way his cell phone maybe, but not his freedom.

 

 

The sentencing of Mr. Weiner is excessive and unjustified. Twenty-one months in a federal jail for having committed a virtual crime with a teenager who is curious and confused, and willing, is selective enforcement and unjust.

Mr. Weiner has an impulse control problem, that is clear. I don’t see him as a monster but one with a neurological and behavioral disorder on a level with drug addiction.

 

 

I don’t care for the man but the sentence is way too harsh. He never had physical contact with the young person. It can be true that he’s a jerk, and also be true that his sentence is too harsh.

 

 

*****************************************************

 

MY THOUGHTS

 

Anthony Weiner has not behaved in a way that reflects well upon him.

He has an addiction, a compulsion.

An addiction to sex, alcohol, drugs, gambling may be a problem for a person and their loved ones, but it is not a priori a crime. Nor should it be.

Weiner’s addiction manifested itself in sexting. It was behavior not becoming a public official, but, since it was with other adults, it was not a crime. Until he slipped up once, and engaged in a salacious internet exchange with an underage girl.

For this he will be required to register as a sex offender? That is really cruel and uncalled for. Yes, cruel. Isn’t the purpose of such laws — i.e., those dealing with sex offenders — to prevent predators such as rapists and child molesters from repeat offenses, and to protect potential victims? Anthony Weiner belongs in this category of offender? The judge says he does, or could be, or _______ (who knows how she concluded what she did). How does she know that he is a dangerous sexual predator likely to continue, despite being in therapy? She pretends to knowledge which is founded on nothing substantive, no evidence; there is no basis for her conclusions.

A key to the judge’s convoluted thinking seems to be indicated by her statement that because of Weiner’s notoriety, there has been “intense interest in this prosecution, in his plea, and his sentence. … So there is the opportunity to make a statement that could protect other minors.”

In other words, use Weiner to make a general point — to teach a lesson to all and sundry — which does not quite apply in this case, but who cares? It’s worth using Weiner as an example, to scare would be predators from offending. Just in case they might be thinking about it. Or, if Weiner himself might possibly be thinking about repeating. Better to be safe than sorry. Put his head on a pole in a public square.

It’s not fair. There is a person’s life being ruined here. Can’t the punishment be made to at least fit the crime? Are we to have “designer sentences” contrived to set an example for all would be sexters?

Trials are a game. Like kids playing tug of war, Old Maid, or Monopoly. Or sports contests. The two sides — prosecution and defense — only want to WIN. (And, to run up the score, if they can. Just as a football team doesn’t want to win by 3 points if they can manage to win by 30 points, prosecutors argue for as long a sentence as they manage to see imposed, no matter the justness of it.) Perhaps — probably — to bolster their resumes. In the process, what’s fair and what the explanation for misdeeds might be — and many other considerations that ought to be taken into account in resolving thorny questions of motivation, guilt, responsibility, accountability, and so on — get brushed aside.

The truth and what’s fair are irrelevant. Compassion for the individual on trial is considered irrelevant, not to the purpose. For example, that Weiner is contrite and has committed himself to therapy, or that imprisonment could have a negative effect upon his son, who is five years old.

Judges to be prepared for the job must have to submit to the opposite of a blood transfusion: an UNtransfusion whereby they are drained of all blood. Of human feeling and human emotions. They and the Robespierre-like prosecutors are bloodless, insensate, obdurate, unfeeling, heartless, insentient, soulless, unbending, cold blooded, indurated. (Choose your adjective.)

A final thought. It concerns public morality as it affects and impinges upon the thinking and decisions of prosecutors and judges.

The PC crowed used to be against censorship and obscenity laws and against snooping, into bedrooms and/or one’s reading matter, say. The American literary critic Newton Arvin (1900-1963), a professor at Smith College, was forced into retirement in 1960 after pleading guilty to charges stemming from the possession of pictures of semi-nude men from issues of magazines such as Grecian Guild Pictorial and Trim: Young America’s Favorite Physique Publication. Arvin’s prosecution is regarded as having been a miscarriage of justice (he also had Communist leanings), yet, today, something similar is going on with the vigilant hunting of persons who violate strictures regarding what is and what is not permissible to be viewed or shared on the internet. There seems to have been a definite shift towards meting out more severe punishments, and the PC crowd are in the vanguard, calling for justice, as they see it, to be applied with no possibility of redemption (read treatment, in the case of nonviolent offenders) contemplated or allowed for.

 

 

Roger W. Smith

   September 28, 2017

 

 

*****************************************************

 

Addendum:

 

According to a Wikipedia article at

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Psychological_projection

Psychological projection is a theory in psychology in which humans defend themselves against their own unconscious impulses or qualities (both positive and negative) by denying their existence in themselves while attributing them to others. For example, a person who is habitually rude may constantly accuse other people of being rude. It incorporates blame shifting.

That’s what has fundamentally been going on here. Ever since Anthony Weiner was caught sexting. As the press was feasting on and gloating about each new disclosure.

 

 

*****************************************************

 

 

Addendum:

 

A former colleague and good friend of my wife called this evening (September 30) and left a voice mail. It so happens that he is very articulate.

Apropos my post about Anthony Weiner, he said: “Roger’s argument about Anthony Weiner is so compelling, it’s impossible to detect any flaws in it.”

I realize, sadly, that despite this, it will probably not help Mr. Weiner.

 

 

*****************************************************

 

 

Addendum:

 

All the while, [Alabama politician and former judge Roy] Moore seems to have been the king of hypocrisy. The Washington Post published a devastating account of how he initiated a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old schoolgirl.

The victim said that Moore, then a 32-year-old assistant district attorney, drove the girl to his house, removed her clothes and touched her sexually. Under Alabama law, that apparently constitutes sexual abuse in the second degree. If you want an example of a politician who lost support and was arrested for less egregious behavior, consider Anthony Weiner, the former Democratic member of Congress, who is now in prison for sexting a 15-year-old girl.

 

— “God Should Sue Roy Moore,” by Nicholas Kristof, The New York Times, November 10, 2017

 

Note that Weiner admitted his transgressions, participated in sex offender therapy, and pleaded guilty.

About Roger W. Smith

Roger W. Smith is a writer and independent scholar based in New York City. His experience includes freelance writing and editing, business writing, book reviewing, and the teaching of writing and literature as an adjunct professor. Mr. Smith's interests include personal essays and opinion pieces; American and world literature; culture, especially books and reading; classical music; current issues that involve social, moral, and philosophical views; and experiences of daily living from a ground level perspective. Besides (1) rogersgleanings.com, a personal site, he also hosts websites devoted to (2) the author Theodore Dreiser and (3) to the sociologist and social philosopher Pitirim A. Sorokin.
This entry was posted in criminal "justice", political correctness (PC), public morality and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to the punishment of Anthony Weiner

  1. haycarol says:

    Sexting a teenage girl is a “petty transgression”? Don’t agree.

  2. I does not merit the punishment Weiner received. It went to great pains in the post (which I exhaustively researched) to try and show that. Many Times readers felt the same way as me.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

w

Connecting to %s