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Mark Foley’s moral troubles are well documented. Less clear is his legal standing. Widely reported among news outlets has been the fact that the age of consent in the District of Columbia is 16, and thus a saving legal grace for former Rep. Foley (R-Fla.). But on July 17 the D.C. Council passed an emergency omnibus bill that strengthened the District’s sex abuse law, specifically targeting an adult who uses a position of authority to engage a minor in a sexual act. The law was amended so that a minor is now considered “someone who has not attained the age of 18 years.” The new statute also punishes adults for attempting to “entice . . . or persuade a child or minor to engage in a sexual act or contact.” The punishment is up to five years in prison. But though this new law could be applied to Foley if new evidence is uncovered that shows he had conversations with minors after July 17, Stuart Pierson, a partner at Troutman Sanders and a former federal prosecutor, says the bar is typically set so that words of encouragement are not enough to obtain a conviction. “There’d have to be something in the circumstance to indicate the enticement would have a reasonable probability of success,” says Pierson. The law in Foley’s case is further complicated by jurisdictional obstacles�such as whether both parties were in Washington�and the parties’ First Amendment rights. Meanwhile, as of late last week, a number of the congressmen and staffers set to be questioned by the House Ethics Committee or law enforcement officials were still scrambling to hire lawyers. But House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.) has decided to turn to longtime adviser J. Randolph Evans of the Atlanta office of McKenna, Long & Aldridge for counsel. Evans is no stranger to D.C. scandals. Earlier this year he helped Hastert deal with allegations that the speaker had improperly profited from a land sale near a new highway in Illinois for which Hastert had earmarked federal road-construction funds. Evans also has a long-standing relationship with former Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.). Evans counseled Gingrich when he faced an ethics probe in the late 1990s and served as his spokesman during Gingrich’s messy divorce from his former wife Marianne.
Nathan Carlile can be contacted at [email protected].
Jason McLure can be contacted at [email protected].

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