No stalking charges for former Miami Beach state representative

 

dovalle@MiamiHerald.com

Richard Steinberg, the former Miami Beach state representative, will not face criminal charges for sending creepy and harassing anonymous text messages to a married federal prosecutor.

He resigned from office in February after The Miami Herald reported he was under investigation for sending dozens of “inappropriate and unsolicited” text messages to the woman.

In a final report released Friday, state prosecutors said they could not prove Steinberg, D-Miami Beach, acted in a “malicious’” way, a key element for charges under Florida’s stalking statute.

“The victim, although supportive of any filing decision made, could not in good faith say she felt [Steinberg] was being malicious,” according to the final memo by prosecutor Johnette Hardiman.

Steinberg, a former Miami Beach commissioner, was elected in 2008 and was well-respected among his peers in the Florida House of Representatives.

Last summer, Steinberg used a Yahoo! account with the screen name “itsjustme24680” to send text messages to Assistant U.S. Attorney Marlene Fernandez-Karavetsos.

For months, Fernandez-Karavetsos told investigators, an anonymous texter sent suggestive messages, calling her “sexxxy mama” and asking about her infant son. She repeatedly asked the person to stop and identify himself.

Fernandez-Karavetsos, who is married to a federal prosecutor, only knew Steinberg through professional circles. Steinberg, a lawyer, is married with children.

Fernandez-Karavetsos complained to the U.S. Secret Service, which along with Miami Beach police traced the anonymous messages back to Steinberg’s home and phone.

In February, The Miami Herald broke the story, which went viral on the Internet. Steinberg admitted to The Herald that he sent the texts.

“ I deeply regret and wholeheartedly apologize for the disrespect that I have shown her, her husband and my constituents,” he said in a statement. “Most importantly, words cannot express how sorry I am to my wife, for the disrespect I have shown her, and my entire family.”

Two days later, Steinberg resigned. In August, voters elected his replacement: fellow Democrat Dave Richardson.

After the story broke, Miami-Dade prosecutors talked to Steinberg’s attorney, Jarrett Wolf, who said the former lawmakers “regretted the impact of [his] actions.” The texts, he said, were “meant to playful or funny, not distressing, threatening, or embarrassing.”

Steinberg also completed counseling with a licensed psychologist and had not attempted to contact Fernandez-Karavetsos again, according to the final memo.

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