Bombshell report increases pressure on embattled Stringer

By: and - January 25, 2019 3:20 pm

Rep. David Stringer. Photo by Howard Fischer | Capitol Media Services

State Rep. David Stringer, who was already facing calls for his resignation and possible censure in the Arizona House of Representatives over a series of racist remarks, now faces intensified pressure following revelations that he was charged with sex offenses in Maryland in the early 1980s.

The Phoenix New Times dropped a bombshell on Stringer Friday morning when it reported that he was charged with five sex offenses, including child pornography, when he lived in Baltimore in 1983. Stringer told a conservative news outlet that the pornography charge was dropped because the police had no evidence, and that he was not convicted of any charges. It unclear exactly what charges Stringer faced.

Stringer, R-Prescott, has not responded to requests for comment from the Mirror.

The Arizona Daily Independent, a conservative news website, reported details of the 1983 incident, which it said it obtained from Stringer. The website’s story about the 1983 incident proclaimed his innocence and cast him throughout as a sympathetic figure who was wrongly accused.

According to Maryland court documents obtained by the New Times, Stringer was given five years of probation and was ordered to perform 208 hours of community service, and was to “seek admission to Dr. Berlin’s program at Hopkin’s.” The New Times reported that a Dr. Frederick Berlin is currently the director of the Sexual Behavior Consultation Unit at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, where he founded the university’s Sexual Disorders Clinic.

The record of Stringer’s case was expunged in 1990, the New Times reported. Under Maryland law, expungement erases police and court records.

Stringer said to the Daily Independent that Baltimore police arrested him on charges of “possession of pornography and patronizing prostitutes.” Police found no pornography of any kind in his house and charges related to pornography allegations were later dropped. He said other charges stemmed from allegations made by two prostitutes who “were offering up names in exchange for leniency from prosecutors” after being arrested and falsely named him as a client, the Daily Independent wrote.

Stringer said he pleaded not guilty to the remaining charges, and planned to fight them at trial. The day of the trial, he said prosecutors offered him a deal under which he would accept probation in exchange for the charges being dropped and ultimately expunged. He emphasized to the Daily Independent that the deal was not a conviction and that he was able to maintain his not guilty plea. The Daily Independent story did not mention the court-ordered treatment.

In his Daily Independent interview, Stringer provided few details about the actual allegations against him. He did not say whether he knew the prostitutes or how they came to accuse him of being a client.

The Daily Independent story is dated Jan. 16, nine days before the New Times published its findings. The blog said Stringer approached it with the information about the 1983 case, in part, as a preemptive measure because another news outlet was digging into it.

Stringer has been an attorney since 1978 and has been licensed to practice law in Arizona since 2004, according to the State Bar for Arizona. A spokeswoman for the Arizona Supreme Court, which licenses attorneys, a process that includes vetting for character and fitness, said applications to practice law in Arizona are confidential documents. The spokeswoman said the court could not say what Stringer disclosed the 1983 incident to the court.

The new revelations add to Stringer’s already substantial problems in the Legislature.

During the summer, Stringer made national headlines after he described immigration as an existential threat to the country. In late November, the New Times published audio of Stringer making more racist remarks. It prompted calls to resign by numerous groups and prominent Republican leaders, including Gov. Doug Ducey. House Speaker Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, then stripped Stringer of his chairmanship of the House Recidivism and Sentencing Reform Committee, which he subsequently dissolved.

Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, said in a press statement Friday afternoon that she will file a complaint on Monday with the House Ethics Committee. She also called on Stringer to resign.

Ducey, who called for Stringer’s resignation last year, re-upped his call for Stringer to step down in the wake of the New Times article.  

“The governor has been clear on this. He’s called for Rep. Stringer to resign before. Today, he reiterated that call,” said Elizabeth Berry, a spokeswoman for the governor.

In a press statement, Bowers said he was disturbed by the report and expressed his “deep concern” to Stringer, but stopped short of calling for a resignation, censure or expulsion.

“Rep. Stringer may have fulfilled the legal consequences of his actions, but I believe that charges of this nature cast a shadow over the entire Legislature and his ability to be an effective legislator,” Bowers said. “There are myriad calls for Rep. Stringer’s resignation and other actions, and I hope that Rep. Stringer will reflect on the impacts of these reports as he considers whether to continue in his office.”

Rep. Reginald Bolding, House minority co-whip, said the news was shocking and called on Stringer to resign.

“In absence of that, the state legislature has to pursue an expulsion as we believe he does not represent the state of Arizona, and he does not represent his district,” Bolding, D-Phoenix, said. “There is no way he can be an effective member of this body with this hanging over him.”

Robbie Sherwood, a spokesman for the House Democrats, said Bolding and Republican colleagues have been working on a motion to censure Stringer in the House of Representatives based on his racist remarks.

Stringer apologized to his colleagues for his racist comments on the House floor Thursday, one day after sending a letter to his colleagues defending himself, denying claims that he’s a racist and inviting them to speak with him about his comments if they have any concerns.

Bolding said it was good that Stringer apologized on the House floor, but not enough to change his opinion that Stringer is unfit for office.

“(The apology) should make this process much easier, whether it’s his resignation or his expulsion,” Bolding said. “One thing he didn’t disclose is his arrests for crimes of sexual nature. We don’t know what else is out there. This is causing a distraction.”

Rep. T.J. Shope, R-Coolidge, who chairs the House Ethics Committee, and Rep. Diego Rodriguez, D-Laveen, who also sits on that committee, both declined to comment because they may have to review the matter.

In a statement, Arizona Democratic Party spokesman Les Braswell said the legislature needs to immediately remove Stringer from his seat.

“These latest revelations of sexual misconduct go beyond the pale of his already disgusting behavior as an elected official in Arizona,” Braswell said. “The state cannot tolerate a man like that serving in elected office. He does not represent Arizona or its values.”

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Jeremy Duda
Jeremy Duda

Jeremy Duda is a Phoenix native and began his career in journalism in 2003 after graduating from the University of Arizona. Jeremy Duda previously served as the Mirror's associate Editor. Prior to joining the Arizona Mirror, he worked at the Arizona Capitol Times, where he spent eight years covering the Governor's Office and two years as editor of the Yellow Sheet Report. Before that, he wrote for the Hobbs News-Sun of Hobbs, NM, and the Daily Herald of Provo, Utah. Jeremy is also the author of the history book “If This Be Treason: the American Rogues and Rebels Who Walked the Line Between Dissent and Betrayal.”

Laura Gómez
Laura Gómez

Reporter Laura Gómez Rodriguez covers state politics and immigration for the Arizona Mirror. She was named Best Investigative Reporter by Phoenix Magazine in its 2018 newspaper category and has been honored by the Arizona Press Club for education, immigration, political, and public safety reporting and Spanish-language news and feature reporting. Laura worked for The Arizona Republic and La Voz Arizona for four years, covering city government, economic development, immigration, politics and trade. In 2017, Laura traveled the length of the U.S.-Mexico border for “The Wall,” the Pulitzer Prize-winning project produced by The Arizona Republic and USA Today Network. She is a native of Bogotá, Colombia and lived in Puerto Rico and Boston before moving to Phoenix in 2014. Catch her researching travel deals, feasting on mariscos or playing soccer.