Paper had questionable emails year before reports
Raw Story held emails for want of second source
Former Republican congressman Mark Foley, whose e-mails and instant messages caused uproar and became the butt of a thousand jokes, might have scored yet again.
According to ABC, Florida laws may spare the congressman because of the state's three-year statute of limitations.
Florida did not start a criminal investigation of Foley until November 2006, making it "nearly impossible to prosecute" an explicit instant message Foley sent to a 17-year-old high school student in 2003.
Who's to blame?
House Republican leadership, for one, who had knowledge of Foley's inappropriate behavior for years. The emails originally leaked out of the office of Rep. Rodney Alexander (R-LA), a Democrat-cum-Republican who changed parties in 2004. But the untold story is that the media, too, had a hand in protecting Foley.
The messages first crossed the desk of the St. Petersburg Times in 2005. Raw Story is also aware, through various sources, that ABC had elements of the Foley story a year prior to the article's release.
The critical instant message conversation cited by law enforcement, however, did not emerge until after ABC published their story in August 2006. Harper's Magazine also admitted they had received the first batch of "over-friendly" emails a month earlier.
St. Petersburg Times Executive Editor Neil Brown defended his decision not to run the Foley story after they received "creepy" messages from a Louisiana page in which Foley was seeking a photograph.
"I led deliberations with our top editors, and we concluded that we did not have enough substantiated information to reach beyond innuendo," Brown wrote in an October 2006 editorial. "We couldn't come up with a strong enough case to explain to a teenager's parents why, over their vehement pleas to drop the matter, we needed to make their son the subject of a story - and the incredible scrutiny that would surely follow.
"It added up to this conclusion," Brown added. "To print what we had seemed to be a shortcut to taint a member of Congress without actually having the goods."
Lane Hudson, the former Human Rights Campaign staffer who first posted the emails online -- the posting which spurred ABC into running a story -- said he was not surprised.
"The fact that Foley's getting away with it is symptomatic of how things work in Washington," Hudson said. "Republicans in Congress knew about it for years and did nothing about it, the FBI did nothing about it, and the media failed in its responsibility to properly investigate it."
In the messages, Foley asks a then-17-year-old page detailed information about masturbation.
Maf54 (7:47:11 PM): good so your getting horny
Xxxxxxxxx (7:47:29 PM): lol...a bit
Maf54 (7:48:00 PM): did you spank it this weekend yourself
Maf54 (7:51:22 PM): at your age seems like it would be daily
Xxxxxxxxx (7:51:57 PM): not me
Xxxxxxxxx (7:52:01 PM): im not a horn dog
Xxxxxxxxx (7:52:07 PM): maybe 2 or 3 times a week
Maf54 (7:52:20 PM): thats a good number
Maf54 (7:52:27 PM): in the shower
Maf54 (7:53:24 PM): on your back
Xxxxxxxxx (7:53:30 PM): no face down
Maf54 (7:53:32 PM): love details
Xxxxxxxxx (7:53:34 PM): lol
Xxxxxxxxx (7:53:36 PM): i see that
Xxxxxxxxx (7:53:37 PM): lol
Maf54 (7:53:39 PM): really
Maf54 (7:53:54 PM): do you really do it face down
Xxxxxxxxx (7:54:03 PM): ya
Maf54 (7:54:13 PM): kneeling
Maf54 (7:55:02 PM): completely naked?
Xxxxxxxxx (7:55:12 PM): well ya
Maf54 (7:55:21 PM): very nice
Xxxxxxxxx (7:55:24 PM): lol
Maf54 (7:55:51 PM): cute butt bouncing in the air
Maf54 (8:08:31 PM): get a ruler and measure it for me
Xxxxxxxxx (8:08:38 PM): ive already told you that
Maf54 (8:08:47 PM): tell me again
Xxxxxxxxx (8:08:49 PM): 7 and 1/2
Maf54 (8:09:04 PM): ummmmmmmmmmmmmmmm
Maf54 (8:09:08 PM): beautiful
Raw Story received emails in weeks before publication
For the first time, Raw Story will also admit having had the email exchange between Foley and a male page prior to ABC's publication. This site did not receive the emails until roughly a week prior to ABC's release, and was unable to acquire a second source to publish the story. We did not have the more explicit IM conversations.
And now, Foley will probably get away.
"Barring any extraordinary circumstances, it is very unlikely for charges to be filed in a case once the statute of limitations has run its course," Aya Gruber, a former federal public defender and professor of law at Florida International University, told ABC News.
"Federal officials turned the case over to Florida after concluding that Foley did not engage in any actual sexual contact until the former pages had turned 18, and had therefore not violated federal law. Washington, D.C. law defines the age of consent as 16," ABC added.
Florida law stipulates that using the Internet to "seduce, solicit, lure or entice" a minor to commit any illegal act "relating to lewdness or indecent exposure" is a third-degree felony. This would include email and instant messages.
Mike Rogers, the gay blogger who first suggested Foley was gay on his website blogACTIVE, also said the media had failed.
"Once again, the mainstream media has failed in its role in a great democracy," he remarked. "Despite even being given constitutional protection to pursue stories, the papers in Florida not only protected a political career -- most likely so they could have continued access to Congressman Foley -- but they stood in the way of reporting a crime. With the statue of limitations passed, the blame for Mark Foley's escape from the law falls squarely upon the heads of the newspapers that had this evidence."
The House -- led by Democrats -- has also stymied Florida's investigation. Lawyers for the chamber blocked investigators' access to Foley's computers, saying they were the equivalent of congressional papers, which only Foley could release. The action followed on the heels of what was later ruled an unconstitutional invasion of Rep. William Jefferson's (D-LA) House office in a bribery inquiry.
ABC was the first to report the action by the House's lawyers. Foley resigned hours after more troubling messages with former congressional pages became public via ABC on Sept. 29, 2006.
According to Media Bistro, "ABC News' the Blotter -- which sparked the investigation that exposed lewd instant messages sent by Republican Congressman Mark Foley to a Congressional page and rocked Congress -- won the 2007 National Headliner Award for Television Affiliated Online Journalism for its reporting on the scandal."
Rogers is a technical consultant for Raw Story and Editor/Publisher of PageOneQ. He did not participate in the writing or editing of this article.