Judge cracks down on first ex-boyfriend sentenced for 'revenge porn' in Minnesota
ST. PAUL — Michael Weigel's former partner woke up last December to a stunning email from her ex.
"You will never live in peace. You will live in shame and embarrassment for the rest of your life," the email said, according to the excerpt the woman read in Ramsey County District Court on Tuesday, Oct. 3.
It went on to detail how Weigel had plastered naked pictures of her that the two took while they were still a couple on her new boyfriend's Facebook page. The photos were attached in the email.
"I wanted to crawl into a hole and disappear," the woman recounted for the court.
She spent weeks crying and panicking as she tried to navigate Facebook's process for getting the photos removed.
She had to show the images to police officers so that criminal charges could be pursued. She worried the public exposure might cost her her job. Her new boyfriend's family and friends, some of whom she hadn't yet met, now had images of her naked body in their minds, she said.
"I will worry about these images for the rest of my life and live with the shame and embarrassment the rest of my life," she said.
In that sense, Weigel got what he wanted, the woman said.
The 39-year-old Anoka man was the first person charged in Ramsey County under a new state law that took effect during the summer of 2016 that seeks to hold people accountable for so called "revenge porn."
As such, his ex asked Ramsey County District Judge Stephen Smith to set a precedent with Weigel's case — ignoring his request to avoid further jail time by sentencing him in accordance with the law.
Smith ultimately did.
He sentenced Weigel to about four months in jail and three years of supervised probation on one count of felony-level nonconsensual dissemination of private sexual images.
Two additional counts of the same charge were dismissed.
His attorney, public defender John Reimer, said he believed Weigel was the first person sentenced under the new statute.
Weigel, who pleaded guilty to the charge in August, addressed the judge before receiving his sentence.
He said he relapsed on alcohol and had fallen into a deep depression after his relationship ended.
"I want to start by saying I am incredibly sorry. I have been through breakups before ... but never in my life did I fall into the path that I fell into this time," Weigel said. "I messed up. I messed up so bad and it affected so many people."
He went on to call his former partner the "love of his life" and said he never meant to hurt her.
He added that he put himself through treatment and therapy and found a new job since he was charged.
The judge said he "appreciated" the actions Weigel has taken to turn his life around but said they couldn't undo the impact he has had on his ex.
He also questioned Weigel's statement that he hadn't meant to cause harm.
"I have a hard time seeing it any other way," Smith said.