WANG: Weiner’s ‘mental illness’ may be false excuse for his actions
Opinions Column: A Third Person Perspective
Former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner was sentenced to 21 months in prison for sexting a 15-year-old girl with an additional three years of supervised release. This is how we catch a sexual predator, right? This is how we protect our children from the exploitation of men in power ... right?
— Not quite. Our justice system has become a feeding ground for defense attorneys and even the law to justify and validate the sickening obsessions and perversions of men in power. Judge Denise Cote of the Southern District of New York, who actually presided over Weiner’s case, stated how Weiner did not have an “abnormal interest in teenagers” due to the fact that Weiner was simultaneously in contact with 19 other women. Yes, that is the kind of reasoning our judges are using in the court of law that allows a sexual predator to walk away with such a minimized prison sentence.
It gets even worse when Weiner decides to plead the illness-card. Why is it okay that Weiner, who asked the teen to “engage in sexually explicit conduct via Skype and Snapchat, where her body was on display ... to sexually perform for him,” gets to walk away from prison in two years when he knew that she was definitely underage?
Let me state that again: Anthony Weiner was fully aware of the fact that the girl he was asking to have video sex with was 15 years old.
Do not get me wrong, I completely acknowledge the significance of leniency for people whose mental illness justifies their insanity plea in court. Some people genuinely cannot be held responsible for their actions because of their mental illness, but this is not the case for Anthony Weiner. Weiner took the stance of having a mental illness, which did little to help as he was still tried and found guilty of his crimes.
But, the issue with the entirety of this “guilty but still mentally ill” plea is that while it “may seem to make juries' jobs easier, it compromises ... how society defines responsibility. A 'guilty but mentally ill' plea absolves the judge or jury of this obligation.”
Even though Weiner was tried and sentenced for his crime, it would seem almost impossible to say that his self-proclamation of having this mental illness did not have any leniency in regards to his measly prison sentence. The only person who seems to assert that Weiner suffers from any illness that debilitates his ability to make sound judgments is his attorney, who stated how “his crimes were a ‘product of sickness,’” and so far, it honestly sounds like there is not a single physician or medical professional truly able to back that claim. So exactly what reason do we have to believe Weiner gets to play this sympathy card?
Alright. I will admit it: I am not completely bias-free. Weiner even resigned from Congress in 2011 when a sexually explicit photo landed him in the spotlight but decided to pretend his account was hacked until the truth finally caught up with him. As if that were not eye-rolling and cringe-worthy enough coming from a grown Congressman, Weiner was also embroiled in another sexting scandal in 2013 that ruined his chances of landing a seat as the mayor of New York City. While I understand that Weiner was only tried for his most recent crime, it seems almost impossible to reconcile his 21 months in prison and his sexting escapades while his wife was pregnant with his child. After establishing an obsession-filled pattern to send and solicit sexually explicit photos with grown women and children, it almost makes me question how people like Anthony Weiner even secure positions working for the government.
Do you buy into it? Do you buy into Weiner’s illness that has permitted him to perversely abuse his position of power for the last five years? I am not sure if I totally do. Maybe that is being totally inconsiderate, and maybe that is insulting to people out there that really do suffer from mental illnesses. It could also be argued that Weiner’s attempt to allocate the responsibility and fault onto his “sickness” makes it even more difficult for people with mental illnesses to defend themselves in court.
This entire case has been a headache. Should we be letting men like Anthony Weiner be setting precedents in common law regarding the sexual exploitation of children? Should we actually nod our heads at men like him who admit to his illness, and then let him walk away with barely two years of punishment? Anthony Weiner put our children at risk. Anthony Weiner put our underage sisters, daughters, cousins and nieces at risk of exploitation and I am not quite sure if any of us are totally ready to forgive that just yet.
Ashley Wang is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in English and minoring in philosophy. Her column, "A Third Person Perspective," runs on alternate Fridays.
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