WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. Former U.S. Rep. Mark Foley won't face state or federal criminal charges for sending salacious computer messages to underage male pages, in part because authorities couldn't prove the authenticity of the chats, officials said Friday.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement also noted in an investigative report that too much time had passed since the February 2003 messages to bring any charges.
Justice Department spokeswoman Laura Sweeney also confirmed that the former congressman would not face any federal charges.
The Florida Republican resigned from Congress in 2006 after being confronted with illicit e-mails and instant messages he was purported to have sent to Capitol Hill pages, who are high school students who run errands for lawmakers and learn about Congress.
Florida law enforcement had been investigating electronic communication between Foley and an underage page, Jordan Edmund. The instant messages were purportedly sent in February 2003 from Pensacola.
Foley's attorney, David Roth, read a statement in which the former congressman apologized for "the completely inappropriate e-mails and instant messages I sent."
"I am of course relieved," Foley's statement said. "I, however, recognize that while my behavior was not illegal, it does not by any means make it proper or appropriate."
Authorities were investigating whether Foley broke the law by sending lewd or seductive messages to minors, or if he tried to arrange a meeting for sex with a minor.
In addition to not being able to authenticate the messages, Florida authorities noted that a three-year statute of limitations had expired in 2006.
"However, it is important to note that even if the statute of limitations had not run, there would be no prosecutable case. There are no original records of the 'instant messages' received by Edmund," the report said.
Florida authorities noted the case took a long time to close, in part because Foley refused to allow investigators to examine his congressional computer hard drives. The computers and their contents are protected as privileged material, and only Foley could release them.
An attorney for Edmund said the former page, who now lives in Oklahoma City, would have no comment. Edmund's attorney, Stephen Jones, said there was never any physical contact and charges were not warranted.
Edmund had told investigators that he began communicating with Foley after he completed the House page program and was a 17-year-old senior in high school.
He told investigators that he chatted with Foley over the Internet up to four times a week and that the content of the messages grew "more sexual in nature."
However, he told investigators he never engaged in sexual activity with Foley, despite once being offered oral sex from the congressman during a page reunion.
State investigators said they interviewed 17 people who had served as House pages and none reported any inappropriate communications with Foley.
Foley represented parts of Palm Beach County for 12 years in Congress, building a national reputation as an advocate for tougher laws against child sexual predators. He helped craft a law to protect children on the Internet while serving as co-chairman of the Congressional Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus.