Under Secret Service investigation for sending stalker-like texts to a federal prosecutor, Democratic state Rep. Richard Steinberg on Fridaymorning abruptly resigned his Miami Beach seat.
"The events of the past week have been difficult for my family, for me and for everyone involved,” he said in a statement. “After muchconsultation with my family, my friends and my colleagues in the Democratic caucus — and after some time for quiet, personal reflection— I have decided to resign, effective today, from my position as a member of Florida’s House of Representatives.
"With the support of my family, my friends and my colleagues, I will remain home to attend to my and my family’s personal affairs. As I didearlier this week, I want to once again, very directly and sincerely, apologize to everyone I have hurt. I hope that you will respect my andmy family’s privacy."
Steinberg’s resignation was a relief to his fellow House Democrats, who already command less than a third of their chamber and couldill-afford this high-profile distraction, which became an Internet sensation since The Miami Herald first broke the story two days ago.
Throughout the summer, Steinberg used a disguised Yahoo! account with the screen name “itsjustme24680” to send text messages to AssistantU.S. Attorney Marlene Fernandez-Karavetsos.
Over months, Fernandez-Karavetsos told investigators, the texter sent suggestive messages, calling her “sexxxy mama” and asking about herinfant son. Fernandez-Karavetsos, who knew Steinberg through professional services, repeatedly asked the person to stop andidentify himself.
“Considering we’re both married parents, probably best I not answer that at this point,” the texter, Steinberg, wrote back.
Fernandez-Karavetsos, 37, is married to George Karavetsos, also a federal prosecutor and chief of the Miami U.S. attorney’s narcoticssection. Steinberg, 39, married his wife, Micky Ross Steinberg, in 2008. They have one child.
Finally, she complained to the U.S. Secret Service, which traced the anonymous messages back to Steinberg’s home and phone.
After The Miami Herald obtained the affidavit for a search warrant to examine the information in the Yahoo! account, Steinberg quicklyacknowledged he was the perpetrator, expressed sorrow and asked for forgiveness.
“I acknowledge and take full responsibility for sending inappropriate and unsolicited messages to Mrs. Marlene Fernandez-Karvetsos, whom Ihave known for more than 15 years,” he said in a written statement Thursday. “I deeply regret and wholeheartedly apologize for thedisrespect that I have shown her, her husband and my constituents.”
The story went viral. The liberal-leaning Huffington Post, which picked up The Herald story, produced a slide show that placedSteinberg in the company of other disgraced politicians: former New York Congressman Anthony Weiner, former Florida Congressman MarkFoley, former New York Gov. Eliot Spitzer, former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick, New Jersey Democrat Louis N. Magazzu and former New York Congressman Christopher Lee.
“When that happens on the Huffington Post, you’re done,” said one Democrat. “This shows no sign of ending.”
The revelations about Steinberg came as a shock to those who know him. Soft-spoken and kind-hearted, he didn’t fit the stereotype of astalker.
A review of voting records since Steinberg’s 2009 freshman session shows that the former Miami Beach commissioner has cast at least fivevotes to increase penalties on stalkers and sexual predators who use texting or electronic media during their crimes.
Last week, Steinberg cast a committee vote for HB 1099-Stalking, which expands the definition of ‘aggravated stalking’ to include threats(and implied threats) made via electronic messages (e.g., texts, emails).
The bill also expands the definition of “threat” to include any activity that “places another person in reasonable fear for his or hersafety or safety of his or her family members.” Aggravated stalking is a third-degree felony that carries a five-year maximum prisonsentence, while stalking is a first-degree misdemeanor that can lead to a year of prison time.
Republicans held their fire in the immediate aftermath of the news about Steinberg, who left Tallahassee on Thursday. The 60-daylawmaking session is scheduled to end March. 9.
“He requested an excused absence for the day, we granted it,” House Speaker Dean Cannon said Thursday, describing the situation as having“certainly some disturbing allegations about him but it’s not my place to comment on that.”