TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (AP) — A Democratic lawmaker resigned Friday over suggestive and harassing text messages he sent to a married federal prosecutor using a hidden identity.
Rep. Richard Steinberg said his resignation is effective immediately and asked for privacy while he deals with his personal affairs. The 39-year-old from Miami Beach is married and has a young daughter. He left the Capitol after The Miami Herald reported the story Wednesday and issued an apology.
"The events of the past week have been difficult for my family, for me and for everyone involved," Steinberg said in a written statement. "As I did earlier this week, I want to once again, very directly and sincerely, apologize to everyone I have hurt."
Steinberg, a state representative since 2008, admitted sending unsolicited texts to Marlene Fernandez-Karavetsos, an assistant U.S. attorney in Miami. Federal authorities were investigating the messages as a possible stalking case, an offense that carries a maximum one-year jail sentence.
"We're all concerned about him. We care about him but I think that his family comes first and he made a decision based on his family and the fact that he wanted to just bring all the speculation to an end," said Rep. Perry Thurston, D-Plantation. "He was one of our best members. He was one who was committed to the process and everyone in the caucus loved and loves him."
Fernandez-Karavetsos, 37, is married to George Karavetsos, also a federal prosecutor and chief of the Miami U.S. attorney's narcotics section
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.
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 search 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, her husband and the U.S. Attorney's Office declined to comment on the resignation.
Rep. Scott Plakon said Steinberg did the right thing by resigning.
"We do a lot of important things up here, but I'm glad he's going to attend to his family because that's more important than a lot of other stuff," said Plakon, R-Longwood. "I wish him the best."