By Harriet McLeod
CHARLESTON, South Carolina (Reuters) - Former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford admitted on Wednesday to trespassing on his ex-wife's property but avoided punishment for contempt as part of a court agreement reached a day after the Republican punched his ticket back to Congress.
Sanford, whose win on Tuesday in a special election for a U.S. House seat revived a political career wrecked by an affair while he was governor, also agreed to pay ex-wife Jenny Sanford's $5,000 in attorney's fees and costs.
Mark Sanford and Jenny Sanford had been due to appear in court on Thursday for a hearing about the trespassing allegation.
Jenny Sanford said she found her former husband leaving her home through a back door on February 3 using his phone as a flashlight. Mark Sanford said he went there to watched the Super Bowl with one of the couple's four sons.
The accusation came to light in April as Mark Sanford's bid for the open First Congressional District seat he previously held for three terms heated up. It spurred the National Republican Congressional Committee to drop its support for a candidate already dogged by personal indiscretions.
During his second term as governor in 2009, Sanford tried to cover up a visit to his mistress in Argentina by saying he was hiking the Appalachian Trail. Jenny Sanford divorced him, and he is now engaged to the other woman, who attended his victory party Tuesday night.
In the settlement on Wednesday, Mark Sanford admitted to trespassing more than once, in violation of the couple's 2010 divorce agreement that says neither can enter the other's home without specific permission.
The judge withheld issuing a sentence on the condition that Mark Sanford abide by the divorce decree going forward.
Sanford's attorney, Ralph E. Tupper, could not be reached for comment.
"No one will have any comment beyond the order that we filed," said Jenny Sanford's lawyer, Deena Smith McRackan.
Mark Sanford defeated Democrat Elizabeth Colbert Busch in Tuesday's election to fill the seat vacated by Republican Tim Scott when he was appointed to the U.S. Senate in December.
Colbert Busch is a sister of comedian Stephen Colbert, the host of cable television channel Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report," a popular satirical news show in which he caricatures a conservative political commentator.
(Reporting by Harriet McLeod; Writing by Colleen Jenkins; Editing by Eric Walsh)
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