The State Bar of Arizona is investigating state Rep. David Stringer, who is facing a legislative ethics probe and expulsion threat over recent revelations that he faced sex-crime charges in Maryland in 1983.
State Bar spokesman Rick DeBruhl told Arizona Mirror that there is a preliminary investigation regarding Stringer’s application to practice law in Arizona. Stringer was admitted to the Bar in 2004.
The Supreme Court currently asks attorney applicants if they have ever been served with a criminal summons, arrested, taken into custody, indicted, charged with, tried for, pleaded guilty to or been convicted of violating any law. A court spokesman was unsure what applicants were required to disclose in 2004. It is unknown what Stringer disclosed to the Arizona Supreme Court when he applied to practice law in the state.
Stringer told the Arizona Daily Independent, a conservative website, that he fully complied with requirements that he disclose all arrests and convictions when he applied to practice law in Arizona.
DeBruhl is prohibited from saying what rules of professional conduct Stringer may be accused of violating, when the investigation began or whether it was initiated by a complaint against the embattled lawmaker.
Though he said preliminary investigations generally last less than 30 days, DeBruhl said he was not allowed to say whether the investigation began after the Phoenix New Times reported on Jan. 25 that Stringer faced sex-related charges about 35 years ago while living in Baltimore.
The probe will determine whether a formal investigation is merited. DeBruhl said the Bar received about 3,000 complaints against attorneys in 2018, about 600 of which resulted in formal investigations.
Stringer, R-Prescott, who was recently elected to his second term in the Arizona House of Representatives, did not respond to requests for comment.
According to DeBruhl, the Bar would initiate a formal investigation if the there is clear and convincing evidence of a rule violation, or if it is likely such evidence could be developed, and that the alleged rule violation warranted disciplinary sanctions. Such sanctions run the gamut from probation or formal admonition to disbarment.
If the Bar recommends sanctions, the case would go to the Arizona Supreme Court, which would convene a probable cause committee, which DeBruhl said acts similar to a grand jury in determining whether there should be a disciplinary hearing.
“We act as investigator and prosecutor. The Arizona Supreme Court then acts as judge and jury,” DeBruhl said.
Stringer, who had already faced calls to resign over a series a racist comments, now faces even greater pressure over the recent revelations. The New Times reported that Stringer received five years or probation, 208 hours of community service and was ordered into treatment at a facility at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine that specialized in sexual disorders as a result of two unnamed sex offenses.
Case records obtained by the New Times also state that Stringer faced a child pornography charge, though the records don’t describe any disposition for that charge. Stringer denied possession of any pornography to the Daily Independent.
Stringer has not commented publicly on the Maryland case, except to the Daily Independent, which declared his innocence in the case. Stringer told the website that he wasn’t convicted of any crimes and that he did not plead guilty, though court documents obtained by the New Times indicate that he pleaded guilty to or had a guilty verdict on two undescribed sex offenses.
He said that he took a deal, known as a probation before judgment, on two charges related to allegations from prostitutes that he’d been a client, which he denied.
Two lawmakers, Reps. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, and Reginald Bolding, D-Phoenix, have filed complaints against Stringer with the House Ethics Committee. Depending on the committee’s findings, Stringer could face an expulsion vote in the House of Representatives. House Republicans on Monday blocked Bolding’s motion to expel Stringer, saying he should first go before the ethics committee.