NEW YORK • Anthony Weiner, estranged husband of one of Mrs Hillary Clinton's closest aides and former candidate for New York mayor, pleaded guilty on Friday to sexting a schoolgirl.
The 52-year-old disgraced former United States congressman, wearing a dark suit and tie, broke down repeatedly as he read out a statement attesting to his guilt in a Manhattan federal court.
Weiner, once a rising talent in the Democratic Party, admitted to sending explicit photographs and messages to a 15-year-old high school girl last year as his wife worked on Mrs Clinton's presidential campaign. He surrendered to the Federal Bureau of Investigation on Friday morning and was released on bail after agreeing to turn in his passport, limit his travel to New York and continue mental health treatment. He will also have to register as a sex offender.
"I am guilty, your honour," he said.
Speaking through tears, his voice cracking and his words at times inaudible, he apologised to all those he had hurt and for the "great devastation" caused to family and friends.
"I knew it was morally wrong and unlawful," Weiner told the court. "I have a sickness, but I do not have an excuse," he said.
He pleaded guilty to one count of transferring obscenity to a minor. The crime carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison. Federal prosecutors are seeking a jail term of 21 to 27 months for Weiner.
District Judge Loretta Preska said Weiner would have to meet a probation officer for a pre-sentencing report. As part of the plea deal, he also has to surrender his iPhone. Weiner, who put up a US$150,000 (S$208,000) bond, is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept 8.
The former lawmaker had used online messaging and video chat applications to communicate with a teenager, sending her obscene material and directions to engage in sexual conduct, as well as sexually explicit images.
US media reported shortly after the guilty plea that his wife Huma Abedin had filed for divorce. She announced their separation last August after The New York Post published sexually suggestive photos that he had shared with a woman.
Weiner was forced to resign his seat in Congress in 2011 after a similar scandal in which he admitted to exchanging sexually explicit pictures and messages with at least six women. His wife stood by him at the time.