A former House page says he had sex with then-Rep. Mark Foley (R-Fla.) after receiving explicit e-mails in which the congressman described assessing the sexual orientation and physical attributes of underage pages but waiting until later to make direct advances.
The former page, who agreed to discuss his relationship with Foley with the Los Angeles Times on the condition that he not be identified, said his electronic correspondence with Foley began after he finished the respected Capitol Hill page program for high school juniors. His sexual encounter was in the fall of 2000, he said. At the time, he was 21 and a graduate of a rural Northeastern college.
"I always knew you were a player but I don't fool around with pages," declared one instant message from Maf54, a screen name Foley used in exchanges that have become public involving male former pages.
The former page's account is consistent with Foley's assertion that he did not have sexual relations with minors, an issue that will be key to determining whether he committed crimes. The legal age of consent varies from state to state; in the District of Columbia, where the pages live in supervised dormitories, it is 16.
Yet the former page's exchanges with Foley offer a glimpse of possible predatory behavior by the congressman as he assessed male teenagers assigned as House errand-runners.
In the messages, Maf54 described how years earlier, he had looked to see whether the former page had an erection in his tight white pants while the then-teenager was working near the congressman. Maf54 also speculated about the sexual attributes of other males in the same page class, including the observation that one young man was "well hung."
Foley abruptly resigned his House seat Sept. 29, after the disclosure of sexually oriented messages to former pages. Other messages were subsequently divulged, and questions concerning how much House Republican leaders knew about Foley and his interest in pages are being investigated by the House Ethics Committee. Foley is now in seclusion in an alcohol treatment facility, and his lawyer has declined to answer questions about specific pages.
The FBI has begun contacting former pages, and at least one -- a deputy campaign manager for Rep. Ernest Istook, an Oklahoma Republican who is running for governor there -- has hired a criminal defense lawyer, according to a published report. Istook issued a statement last week urging the media to protect the young man's privacy after his name was briefly posted on the ABC News website.
The former page interviewed by The Times said he had not been contacted by the FBI or the House Ethics Committee. He agreed to talk to The Times only if his identity was protected, because of his fear that exposure could hurt his job prospects.
The Times found the former page after others identified him as someone whose contacts with Foley went beyond graphic messages. At an interview, the former page brought a computer containing his communications with Foley, and allowed a Times reporter to review them. The young man, who now manages a suburban office of a national franchise, says that he is gay and that he had only one sexual encounter with Foley before the contacts abruptly ended. The Times agreed not to publish the year of his page class to protect his identity.
The young man said that while serving as a page, he and his fellow pages gossiped frequently about Foley's overly friendly behavior but did not complain about him to program supervisors or other members of Congress. They nicknamed him "Triple F," for "Florida Fag Foley." One evening, four of the boys made an unannounced visit to Foley's home.
"We knocked on his door and he let us in. Nothing happened, but he was very friendly," the former page said.
Foley's flirtations made the young man feel important at a time when he was struggling with his emerging sexuality. "It seemed cool that he was taking an interest," he said. "I knew he was gay, and he was attracted to me."
After leaving the program, the former page began receiving messages from Foley. He is uncertain how Foley knew his college instant-message name, but assumed the congressman had access to a directory listing former pages' whereabouts.
The exchanges quickly became provocative. In one 2000 message, Maf54 inquired about the length and direction of the youth's erection.
"I always thought you were gay," Maf54 commented.
"Is it obvious?" the former page asked.
Ultimately, the young man said, he had a sexual encounter with Foley at the congressman's Washington home.
Then 21, he was in Washington as an intern in an unrelated program.
The two had wine and pizza on a backyard patio and then retired to a spare bedroom, he recalled.
The former page, who served during Foley's first term, said that he believed Foley became bolder in his behavior during his decade in Congress.
"He clearly has used his position, but who hasn't?" the former page said. He still follows protocol in referring to the former congressman as "Mr. Foley."
He said Foley was really two very different people: a legislator "really devoted to his cause," and a sexual being.
He and other former pages were surprised that it took so long for Foley "to get caught," he said.
"It most saddens me because of the damage it could do to the program," the young man said of the page system. "It was the most spectacular year of my life. I would love to do it all over again."