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Florida closes Foley investigation without charges

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  • Former lawmaker accused of sending suggestive messages to House pages
  • Florida agency won't file charges against ex-Rep. Mark Foley, official says
  • Foley, Congress blocked access to "critical data," agency says
  • Foley did not engage in sexual activity with minors, his attorney says
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From Susan Candiotti
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MIAMI, Florida (CNN) -- The Florida Department of Law Enforcement closed a sex-related criminal probe of former U.S. Rep. Mark Foley on Friday without filing charges, authorities said.

"There is insufficient evidence to pursue criminal charges," said Gerald Bailey, commissioner of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Authorities were investigating whether the Florida Republican, who resigned in September 2006, might have used congressional computers to engage or solicit minors in any illegal activities.

Officials said they were hindered by refusal from Foley and the House of Representatives to allow inspection of the computers.

"FDLE conducted as thorough and comprehensive investigation as possible considering Congress and Mr. Foley denied us access to critical data," Bailey said in a written statement. "Should additional information arise which is pertinent to this case, we will ensure it is appropriately investigated."

Foley is "relieved" that no probable cause was found to charge him with a crime, his lawyer, David Roth, told reporters Friday evening. But in a statement Roth read on behalf of the former congressman, Foley added, "I however recognize that while my behavior was not illegal, it does not by any means make it proper or approriate. To the contrary, I am deeply ashamed of my conduct, which was wrong and without question inappropriate."

Foley said he takes full responsibility for his actions and apologized, particularly to the recipients of the e-mails or instant messages.

"I continue to pray for forgiveness from those I have disappointed" and emotionally harmed, Foley said in the statement.

Foley entered treatment for alcoholism on October 1, 2006, he said in his statement, and has been clean and sober since the day he resigned from Congress.

Roth has denied that his client engaged in sexual activity with minors.

"He is absolutely, positively not a pedophile," attorney David Roth said previously. "He is apologetic for the communications he made while under the influence of alcohol, which he acknowledges are totally inappropriate."

Those communications included scores of e-mails and instant messages that were given to investigators by former House pages. The exchanges -- in which Foley used the screen name MAF 54 -- were published in a House ethics committee report in December 2006.

Roth told reporters Friday that Foley has no intention of re-entering politics and is focusing on his recovery.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement put the price tag for the nearly two-year investigation at about $37,800.

Foley entered a treatment facility for alcoholism shortly after resigning, saying he is gay and was molested by a priest when he was between the ages of 13 and 15.

A Catholic priest living in Italy admitted in a TV interview that he molested Foley when he was a teenager.

"Once maybe, I touched him or so, but I didn't -- it wasn't -- because it's not something you call, I mean rape or penetration or anything like that, you know. We were just fondling," said the priest, Anthony Mercieca.

The ethics committee's probe concluded that House GOP leaders were negligent in not protecting male teenage pages from possible improper advances by Foley. But the panel said there were no violations of the House Code of Official Conduct and decided no one would be reprimanded.

A Justice Department report issued a month later said the FBI should have notified the House or other officials when members first learned of the inappropriate e-mails. The FBI acted within its "range of discretion" when it initially decided not to open a criminal investigation in the case, the Justice Department said. But the internal watchdog's investigation concluded that simply filing away the complaint from a public interest group was an inadequate response.

The FDLE's investigative summary notes that the U.S. House's clerk of courts took possession of two computer hard drives from Foley's two district offices in Florida and the computer from his Washington office, along with backup material.

The department said it did not seek a search warrant for the drives because it failed to turn up probable cause of a crime with a Florida connection.

The department report said that Foley's attorneys voluntarily worked with the Justice Department to review computer data, but the FDLE failed to work out a similar review with Foley's attorneys.

The department said it was given no indication from the FBI or the Justice Department that there was any non-congressional data in the material that would violate Florida law.

CNN's Kevin Bohn and Terry Frieden contributed to this report.

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