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Florida Legislator Resigns in Wake of Texting Scandal

A Florida state lawmaker who supported harsher criminal penalties for stalkers and people who commit sexual offenses using electronic means has resigned in the wake of a texting scandal.

In August and September 2011, Democratic state representative Richard L. Steinberg used a disguised Yahoo account to send text messages to Assistant U.S. Attorney Marlene Fernandez-Karavetsos. The texts included suggestive messages that referred to her as "sexxxy mama," and inquired about her infant son.

Fernandez-Karavetsos repeatedly asked the texter to identify himself. "Considering we're both married parents, probably best I not answer at this point," Steinberg wrote back. Fernandez-Karavetsos, 37, is married to George Karavetsos, also a federal prosecutor and chief of the Miami U.S. Attorney's narcotics section. Steinberg, 39, is married and has one child.

With the texts continuing to pour in, Fernandez-Karavetsos complained to the U.S. Secret Service, which investigated the case because it involved a federal prosecutor. The texts were traced to Steinberg's home and phone. The story broke after the Miami Herald obtained the affidavit for a search warrant to examine the information in Steinberg's Yahoo account.

Steinberg quickly acknowledged he was the perpetrator and expressed sorrow and asked for forgiveness from Fernandez-Karavetsos, whom he had known for 15 years on a professional basis. He then resigned his legislative seat.

"The events of the past week have been difficult for my family, for me, and for everyone involved," Steinberg wrote in a statement. "After much consultation 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."

Steinberg's political career began in 2001 when he became the second-youngest member elected to the Miami Beach Commission. He later became the youngest vice-mayor of the city, and was elected to the state legislature in 2007.

A review of his legislative voting record revealed that he voted five times to enhance penalties for stalkers and sexual predators who use texting or other electronic media to commit their crimes. Just a week before his resignation on February 24, 2012, Steinberg voted for HB 1099 – a bill that expanded the definition of aggravated stalking to include threats and implied threats made via electronic messages.

The bill also amended the definition of "threat" to include any activity that "places another person in reasonable fear for his or her safety or the safety of his or her family members." HB 1099 passed and was signed into law on April 29, 2012.

In November 2012, the Associated Press reported that Steinberg would not face criminal charges for having sent harassing, unwanted texts to Fernandez-Karavetsos. The Miami-Dade County State Attorney's Office wrote in a memo that there was insufficient evidence to prove Steinberg had sent the texts maliciously.

Sources: Miami Herald,, Associated Press

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