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Video: Foley attorney claims client abused as child

David Edwards
Published: Wednesday October 4, 2006

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In a press conference held today in West Palm Beach, Fla., attorney David Roth, who represents disgraced Rep. Mark Foley (R-FL), insisted that, though the congressman did indeed engage in graphic electronic correspondence with teenage boys, he never had inappropriate physical contact with any of them.

He also announced that Foley’s actions are connected to his own abuse by a Catholic priest as an adolescent boy, and confirmed that the congressman is indeed a homosexual, a fact which was suspected long before the internet sex scandal was made public.

This is the first official public announcement that Foley is gay, though rumors of his homosexuality have been widespread for years.

Foley's abuse at the hands of a member of the clergy had not been previously disclosed.

FBI officials are investigating his conduct, which may be felonious even in the absence of direct sexual contact with any underage boys.

Transcript of press conference:

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MR. ROTH: Today, as part of Mark's recovery, he's asked me to convey information that has never been previously released. In order to treat each news organization fairly and equally, this is the only appropriate forum.

Mark explicitly reaffirms his acceptance of responsibility and remorse. He reiterates unequivocally that he has never had sexual contact with a minor. Mark voluntarily entered a substance abuse and mental health facility on Sunday at approximately midnight Eastern Time. I was there and he will be there for at least 30 days.

This decision was Mark's, as was his decision to resign from the United States House of Representatives. This was a life decision, not a tactical one made by others. Mark does not blame a trauma he sustained as a young adolescent for his totally inappropriate e-mails and IM's. He continues to offer no excuse whatsoever for his conduct. As is so often the case with victims of abuse, Mark advises that he kept his shame to himself for almost 40 years.

Specifically, Mark has asked that you be told that between the ages of 13 and 15 he was molested by a clergyman. Mark will address this issue further upon his release from treatment. He very much wanted to release the name of the individual, the church affiliation and other details, but was advised by civil counsel to delay that decision, pending his completion of treatment, after Mark has had an opportunity to consult with counsel.

Mark has also asked me on his behalf to thank the literally thousands of ordinary citizens, as well as friends and others who have conveyed their prayers, love and best wishes to him.

Finally, Mark Foley wants you to know that he is a gay man.

Thank you very much, ladies and gentlemen. If there are any questions based upon what we've related today, I'll be glad to address them and try to answer them to the best of my ability.

Q What were the circumstances -- (off mike) -- by a member of the clergy? How did this occur --

MR. ROTH: All, those details will be dealt with when Mark completes his inpatient treatment, which will be a minimum of 30 days from Sunday.

Q Did you talk to him today? Like, how did this information just get out?

MR. ROTH: Yes, I spoke to him today.

Q I thought when you were normally in treatment you weren't supposed to have any conversations with people.

MR. ROTH: There are exceptions, and I have spoken to many, many clients that have been in treatment and did speak to Mark today.

Q (Off mike.)

MR. ROTH: As I advised folks earlier yesterday, Mark has sought treatment in the past, the details of which I will defer to his civil counsel upon his release from treatment.

Q Why didn't he disclose this in the beginning?

MR. ROTH: Shame. Shame.

Q (Off mike.)

MR. ROTH: Well, I can't discuss my conversation with him in greater detail than I've revealed to you. There are confidential and personal matters between a lawyer and client that cannot be revealed. I've given you the essence and everything that I am authorized to release.

Q Did anyone else know? (Off mike.)

MR. ROTH: The reason that he is releasing this now is this is part of his recovery. He is recovering from the disease of alcoholism and he is recovering from his mental issues, which I told you all about yesterday. This is part of his recovery and any mental health expert will tell you that it is part of recovery.

Q Was it a priest, a deacon, a -- (off mike).

MR. ROTH: Good try, but the best I can do is what I related to you until Mark has had an opportunity to consult with his civil counsel.

Q Is it fair for to the clergy that this statement's being made -- sort of a broad brush of the entire clergy without being -- (off mike).

MR. ROTH: Well, Brian (sp), it is certainly not a broad brush. There are bad lawyers, there are bad doctors, and with all due respect, there are bad journalists. This is not a broad brush. The number of clergy people who are engaged in inappropriate conduct, whether it be sexual or otherwise, is a minuscule figure, as we all know.

Q (Off mike.)

MR. ROTH: Let me make something perfectly clear: There was absolutely never any inappropriate sexual contact with any minor. He has acknowledged full responsibility for the inappropriate e-mails and inappropriate IM's. There never has been any sexual contact with a minor, and any suggestion that Mark Foley is a pedophile is false -- categorically false!

Q What about --

Q Did Mark Foley have teenage boys to his house to have alcohol?

MR. ROTH: I have absolutely no reason to believe that Mark Foley has ever had teenage boys at his house to have alcohol.

Q There is an instant message out today where he invites a teenage boy to come to his house to have drinks.

MR. ROTH: Brian (sp), I cannot confirm or deny, as you folks refer to it, any such statement. My client is in treatment. I've not heard of that allegation. I can tell you that categorically, Mark Foley denies ever, ever having any sexual contact with a minor.

Yes, Terry (sp)?

Q (Off mike.)

MR. ROTH: Terry (sp), compulsion is a psychiatric term. I have not heard the term "compulsion" employed, but the combination -- based upon the experts that I've spoken to -- the combination of alcohol, mental illness can result in inappropriate conduct, which Mark Foley has fully accepted responsibility for.

Q (Off mike.)

MR. ROTH: I was going to be able to tell you absolutely, I have had no contact with law enforcement. And the answer to that is yes. I have not had any contact with law enforcement. One of the reasons I was a few minutes late here today is there was a fax that was received after hours from, I believe, the counsel for the House of Representatives. I have not had an opportunity to review that. But in direct answer to your question, we have not had any contact from any law enforcement agency -- state, local or federal.

Q (Off mike.)

MR. ROTH: As of this point, we have not been asked for any computer files, any computers.

Mark has absolutely agreed on his own and with our counsel not to do anything with any computer, not to delete any messages, not to obliterate or attempt to obliterate any IM's, e-mails, Internet communications. I'm not Internet savvy, so I think I've covered it all, but if you all think of any other Internet function, let me know and I will be able to absolutely deny that we intend -- or Mark intends to do anything but to preserve the evidence.

Q Are you talking about Catholic clergy?

Q (Off mike.)

MR. ROTH: That's a decision that I need to consult with my client about at the appropriate (time ?). In answer to your question, nothing will be altered, nothing will be touched, nothing will be changed.

Q Are you talking about Catholic clergy?

MR. ROTH: I cannot comment on whether the clergyman was a priest, a minister, an imam or a rabbi or any other of the various religions that are in the world, which I understand are way more than 300.

Q Have you -- (off mike) -- Mr. Foley discussed anything about the future of the House speaker -- (off mike).

MR. ROTH: No, absolutely not. I am not involved in politics at all. I've never been a politician. I've never run for political office, and we have not discussed anything politically --

Q (Off mike.)

MR. ROTH: -- excuse me -- other than what I told you all yesterday, that he is extremely apologetic not only to the citizens of Palm Beach County and surrounding counties that he served, to his party and to his country and the people that he feels he's let down.

Q How long has he known he's gay?

MR. ROTH: Those questions can be addressed when he's released from treatment.

Q (Off mike.)

MR. ROTH: Pardon me?

Q Terry (sp), good try, but I've told you everything I can in the statement and I'm going to stick to that.

Q (Off mike.)

MR. ROTH: Yes, ma'am. This is part of his recovery -- part of his recovery.

Q (Off mike.)

MR. ROTH: That's correct.

Q (Off mike.)

MR. ROTH: You know, I don't comment about my own personal beliefs or feelings or knowledge, and I would respectfully decline to comment about that, except to tell you that when I was called at 3:30, approximately, on Friday I was in a state of shock myself.

Q (Off mike.)

MR. ROTH: Absolutely, categorically not.

Q Never attempted --

MR. ROTH: Never attempted to have sexual contact with a minor.

Q (Off mike.)

MR. ROTH: People close to Mark knew that he was a closet drinker, as it is referred to. As I pointed out yesterday, Mark -- to my knowledge and based upon all the information that I have -- never drank in public, never drank as part of his duties as a Lake Worth City Councilman or a United States Congressman. However, at night he did drink and he has admitted that and he has indicated that he strongly believes that he's an alcoholic and is receiving treatment for it.

Q Is he worried about facing criminal charges?

MR. ROTH: At this point in time, our focus has been on Mark Foley's recovery and continues to be on Mark Foley's recovery.

Q David, yesterday you said that Mark's communications were sent under the influence of alcohol.

MR. ROTH: Yes.

Q Today, an instant message was released where it indicated that Mark was serving on the House floor when he instant messaged an intern. Is it your suggestion that Mark was --

MR. ROTH: I'm suggesting to you that --

Q (Off mike.)

MR. ROTH: I'm suggesting to you that based on all the information that I have that Mark Foley was never under the influence of alcohol while he was a public servant. I can't comment on individual allegations of e-mails, IM's, alleged statements without seeing them and without consulting with my client.

Q Have you not seen the instant messages that were released today?

MR. ROTH: No, I have not seen the instant messages that have been released today. I've had other matters on my plate other than Mark Foley and I have not seen the instant messages. I have not watched TV at all today. My first -- excuse me -- my first case this morning required me to be in Martin County at about 8:00 in the morning and I have not watched any TV or listened to any news media.

Q David, if I may, the three lines that I believe that Mr. -- (off mike) -- is talking about say, "Okay, I'd better go vote. Do you know that you -- (off mike) -- on me?" He says, "Yeah, I guess. Yeah, go vote. I don't want to keep you from doing your job."

Doesn't that suggest that Mr. Foley was going to vote on the House floor while he was having these e-mails? And if as you said, he was always under the influence of alcohol when he was having these e- mails, that he would therefore have been under the influence of alcohol while conducting -- (off mike)?

MR. ROTH: I don't draw that conclusion at all, but I haven't had enough time to review the context and content of what you related. So I do not draw that conclusion. I am not here to speculate. I'm here to tell you that based upon all of the information that I have, Mark was under the influence of alcohol at the time that he sent the inappropriate e-mails and IM's -- alleged e-mails and IM's that I have been advised of.

Q Could -- (off mike) -- infer, if Mark was sending an e-mail from the House floor he was under the influence of alcohol at that time?

MR. ROTH: One can infer whatever one wants to infer. I have not reached any conclusions --

Q How do you reconcile those two statements?

MR. ROTH: I haven't reviewed -- yeah --

Q (Off mike) -- when he sends an e-mail. He sent an e-mail from the House floor. How is he then not under the --

MR. ROTH: I haven't reviewed the alleged e-mail and I have no evidence whatsoever to support the fact -- or the allegation rather -- that Mark Foley was ever under the influence of alcohol.

Q (Off mike.)

MR. ROTH: I can't speculate on what the future holds. The only thing I hope is that Mark makes a full recovery, which he is on the road to accomplishing, and that my prayers and the prayers of his friends and family and loved ones and members of this community are with him.

Q Can you give a quick timeline, Mr. Roth, on -- starting at 3:30 on Friday when --

MR. ROTH: Absolutely. Absolutely. At 3:30 p.m. on Friday, Mark called me --

Q From Washington?

MR. ROTH: -- from Washington. And during that conversation, he indicated that he needed help and asked my assistance in obtaining help for him. He had previously referred many clients to me over the years, some of whom had substance abuse and mental health issues.

As a result of those communications, arrangements were made on an emergency and urgent basis for Mark to be admitted into one of the most renowned inpatient substance and mental health issue facilities in the United States.

At approximately midnight Eastern Time, I accompanied Mark into that facility. And I personally vouch for the fact that Mark was admitted at approximately midnight Eastern Time on Sunday and remains in that facility.

Q So from Friday --

Q Are you turning the name of the clergy member over the authorities for investigation?

MR. ROTH: There would not be the possibility of any criminal prosecution. As you know, Brian (sp), there's a statute of limitations. So that has not even been considered until your question. But as you know, it would be a fruitless exercise.

Q Well, is this person still alive? Could he still be --

MR. ROTH: I'm not going to -- is the person alive? Details of the person, the situation that existed, that's going to be related, if at all, after Mark has an opportunity to consult with civil counsel and respond appropriately.

I fully anticipate at some time in the future that Mark will be in front of this podium answering your questions.

Q I'm sorry, on the timeline, I missed between --

MR. ROTH: Sure.

Q -- 3:30 and then midnight Sunday. What was he doing in between those times?

MR. ROTH: He was traveling between Washington and the location where he ultimately was admitted into inpatient treatment.

Q Did he see family?

MR. ROTH: Pardon me?

Q Was he able to see family or come back to his district --

MR. ROTH: I'm not going to comment about personal and private matters with regard to his family or who was with or was not with him. I can tell you that I was with him when he was admitted into the facility.

Q Midnight -- (off mike).

MR. ROTH: Approximately midnight Sunday, Eastern Standard Time.

Q Are you concerned he may try to take his own life?

MR. ROTH: No, I am not concerned about that at all. He has consulted with one of the renowned mental health experts in Palm Beach County consistently throughout the weekend. I was advised by his doctor that despite obvious pressure and the trauma of what he has gone through as a result of the revelations, that he has determined to be completely inappropriate and inexcusable, that he was not in danger of hurting himself.

Q You said he's not a pedophile. Are you just taking his word for that?

MR. ROTH: No, I am not taking his word for it. Based upon all the evidence, all the facts, all of the information that I have received from independent sources, as well as from Mark Foley, Mark Foley has never had sexual contact with a minor.

Q But yet today there's an e-mail that --

Q (Off mike.)

MR. ROTH: That's a decision that psychiatrists and psychologists need to determine. I'm not a mental health expert.

Thank you very much, folks. I appreciate you waiting for me. And good luck.

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