By AMIE PARNES
Former Congressman Mark Foley is "contrite and remorseful" and sent e-mails to male teenage pages while under the influence of alcohol, but he is "absolutely, positively not a pedophile," his lawyer said Monday night.
The disgraced Florida Republican, who entered an alcohol treatment center Sunday evening, is devastated by the allegations that have surfaced over the last few days, said the lawyer, David Roth.
"He has taken full responsibility for those actions," Roth told a news conference. "He blames no one but himself."
From seclusion, Foley released a statement that read: "Painfully, the events that led to my resignation have crystalized recognition of my long-standing significant alcohol and emotional difficulties. I strongly believe that I am an alcoholic and have accepted the need for immediate treatment for alcoholism and other behavioral problems."
He added: "I deeply regret and accept full responsibility for the harm I have caused."
Roth said Foley, 52, is "apologetic for the communications he made while under the influence of alcohol, which he acknowledges are totally inappropriate."
But Roth added, "Based on the information that I have, Mark Foley has never, ever had an inappropriate sexual contact with a minor in his life. He is absolutely, positively not a pedophile."
Roth said Foley would remain in treatment at a private facility for 30 days.
Foley, who served in the House of Representatives for 12 years, resigned suddenly Friday after reports he sent sexually explicit e-mails and instant messages to teenage boys who served as congressional pages.
Also Monday, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement announced it will join the FBI in opening a preliminary investigation into whether Foley broke any laws by sending the e-mails and instant messages. Gov. Jeb Bush asked the agency to conduct a preliminary investigation, an agency spokesman said Monday.
The investigation will "establish if a crime was committed," said Tom Berlinger, an agency spokesman. The agency will work with the FBI, Berlinger added, but the FBI will lead the investigation.
A special "Child Cyber Unit" team from the Florida Attorney General’s office will also be involved in the investigation, Berlinger said.
In another development, ABC News reported that Foley tried to arrange meetings with a congressional teenage page on two different occasions using the instant messenger name "Maf54." The messages could not be verified by Scripps.
At Foley’s former congressional office Monday, staffers began the arduous task of picking up the pieces in the wake of their one-time boss’ sudden departure.
Feeling a range of emotions _ sadness, confusion, but mostly anger _ they returned to work to see an empty space where Foley’s name once appeared outside their office. A bookstand that once held a guest book and pen outside the office sat empty.
The locks to the office had been changed and the staffers spent the start of their day picking up a new set of keys. Inside, pictures of Foley were still on display.
Staffers had a morning conference call with their district offices in Florida and later they attended a meeting with the House clerk.
They were instructed not to delete any e-mails or discard any office material. And there was absolutely no talking to reporters, who were camped outside the congressional office for the entire day and hounded anyone who walked in or out.
It was anything but business as usual. But there were a few strands of normalcy. Constituents continued to call. Deliveries were made.
And in the afternoon, one particular package brought the ultimate irony. A deliveryman showed up with a picture frame. Inside was a copy of legislation Foley sponsored to toughen enforcement against sex offenders. It was signed into law by President Bush.