Fla. lawmaker admits texts harassing US prosecutor
MIAMI (AP) — A contrite Florida state lawmaker who admitted using a hidden identity to send numerous inappropriate, harassing texts to a married federal prosecutor is facing a federal investigation into possible stalking.
Rep. Richard Steinberg, a married Miami Beach Democrat, returned home from Tallahassee even though both legislative chambers were in session, said his spokesman Christian Ulvert. Steinberg, 39, and his wife have a young daughter.
"It's a family matter. That's the No. 1 priority," Ulvert.
Steinberg, responding to inquiries about the probe from The Miami Herald, issued a statement acknowledging that he sent "inappropriate and unsolicited messages" to Marlene Fernandez-Karavetsos, an assistant U.S. attorney in Miami he said he has known for 15 years. Steinberg's spokesman also provided a copy to The Associated Press.
"I deeply regret and wholeheartedly apologize for the disrespect that I have shown her, her husband and my constituents," Steinberg said in the statement. "Most importantly, words cannot express how sorry I am to my wife, for the disrespect I have shown her, and my entire family."
According to the warrant filed in Miami-Dade County Circuit Court, investigators traced dozens of text messages sent under the user name "itsjustme24680" to Steinberg's home in Miami Beach. The number associated with that identity was a "spoof," according to investigators, meaning the true phone number was hidden on the victim's phone.
The warrant details some of the texts, which began in August, and show that Fernandez-Karavetsos tried numerous times to get the sender to stop.
"Sexxxy mama?" read one text.
"How do I know you?" Fernandez-Karavetsos responded.
Later, "itsjustme" wrote: "Good morning!"
"Leave me alone" the prosecutor responded.
"Is that any way to treat a friend? LOL" came the response.
Then Fernandez-Karavetsos wrote: "This is the last time I'm going to ask, you've been texting long enough — who is this?"
"Considering we're both married parents, probably best I not answer that at this point," wrote "itsjustme" in reply.
Fernandez-Karavetsos, 37, is married to George Karavetsos, also a federal prosecutor and chief of the Miami U.S. attorney's narcotics section. Both declined comment Thursday.
In a meeting with investigators, Fernandez-Karavetsos said she knew Steinberg "in a professional non-intimate way" and provided screen shots of the numerous messages on her phone.
"The victim indicated that the messages have caused her substantial emotional distress and serve no legitimate purpose," Miami Beach police Det. Ricardo Arias wrote in a search warrant affidavit.
The search warrant lists the potential offense as stalking, which is a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in prison. Steinberg has not been charged with any crime. The Secret Service is the lead investigative agency with the Miami Beach Police Department assisting, said Miami Beach police spokesman Det. Juan Sanchez.
Steinberg, an attorney, was elected in 2008 to represent part of Miami Beach in the state House of Representatives. Before that, he spent seven years as a Miami Beach commissioner, and he is the son of former state Sen. Paul B. Steinberg.
Associated Press writer James L. Rosica in Tallahassee contributed to this story.
Follow Curt Anderson on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Miamicurt