The State Bar of Arizona has dismissed a complaint against state Rep. David Stringer after finding no evidence that he failed to properly disclose legal troubles when he was licensed to practice law in Arizona.
The Bar initiated the complaint in January to determine whether Stringer, a Prescott Republican, had disclosed that he faced sex crimes charges following a 1983 arrest in Baltimore, where he was living at the time. Stringer was admitted to the Bar in 2004.
In a letter on Thursday to Stringer’s attorney, Carmen Chenal, Bar counsel Matthew McGregor wrote that the Arizona Supreme Court no longer has a copy of Stringer’s application for admission to the Bar. The court is only required to keep such applications on file for seven years.
Stringer, a Prescott Republican, told McGregor that he made all required disclosures about his prior legal issues when applied to the Bar, McGregor wrote. Stringer was licensed to practice law in Washington, D.C., at the time of his arrest, and the matter was referred to the District of Columbia Office of Disciplinary Counsel. McGregor said he confirmed with the office that it dismissed the matter without taking any action against Stringer.
“At this time, it does not appear that there is clear and convincing evidence or that such evidence could be developed to support the allegation that Representative Stringer failed to make the required and appropriate disclosures in seeking admission to the State Bar of Arizona,” McGregor wrote Chenal.
McGregor wrote that the matter is dismissed and that the Bar has closed its file, but it reserves the right to re-open the investigation if more information comes to its attention.
Chenal said she was excited about the dismissal. She said the dismissal was based not only on the lack of evidence from Stringer’s application to the Arizona Bar, but also from the D.C. Bar’s dismissal of the complaint against him in 1984.
“The D.C. Bar said that there was no moral turpitude. They never entered a judgment. There was never any kind of criminal judgment. And there was nothing that he did that would ever affect his fitness to practice the law. So they dismissed it,” Chenal said.
According to the D.C. Bar, the only document it has on file regarding its investigation into the incident is a 1984 dismissal letter. Other documents involving Stringer’s case in Maryland have since been destroyed, the D.C. Bar informed Chenal, according to records the Arizona Bar provided to the media.
At Chenal and Stringer’s request, a Maricopa County judge on Wednesday blocked the 1984 dismissal letter from release. Chenal told the Mirror that she requested the protective order barring the two-paragraph letter from public release because it would be easy for political figures or others to distort parts of it and take them out context.
“You can pick a couple words out of there, take them out of context, and then it makes them look bad. But the D.C. Bar’s not going to dismiss it in totality and the Arizona Bar’s not going to dismiss it in totality but for the fact that he’s not really guilty of anything,” Chenal said.
The Bar investigation followed revelations by the Phoenix New Times that Stringer faced five sex crime charges, including child pornography, in Maryland in 1983. Records obtained by the New Times don’t describe any disposition for that charge, but show that he was sentenced to five years of probation and was ordered into a treatment program at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine that specialized in sexual disorders as a result of two unnamed sex offenses.
Stringer has refused to comment on the 1983 incident, except to the Arizona Daily Independent, a conservative blog. He denied possessing child pornography and told the blog that the charge was dismissed for lack of evidence. Stringer told the blog that he wasn’t convicted of any crimes and that he did not plead guilty, though the documents that the New Times obtained indicate that he pleaded guilty to or had a guilty verdict on two undescribed sex offenses.
The New Times reported that the state of Maryland expunged the records of Stringer’s case in 1990.
The lack of evidence regarding Stringer’s Bar application could be a boon for him in an investigation by the House Ethics Committee. Reps. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, and Reginald Bolding, D-Phoenix, have both filed ethics complaints against Stringer regarding the Maryland case. Bolding’s ethics complaint also cited a series of racist comments by Stringer that came to light in June 2018 and again in November. Bolding had previously sought a vote to expel Stringer from the Arizona House of Representatives.
Judge William O’Neil’s protective order for the 1984 dismissal letter explicitly bars the release of the letter to the Legislature or to other branches or divisions of government, media outlets or members of the general public.
Chenal said Stringer would be willing to provide the D.C. Bar’s letter to the House Ethics Committee, as long as it also shields the letter from release.
“I think that once they read the letter, they’ll dismiss the complaint too,” she said.
*This story has been updated to include comments from David Stringer’s attorney, Carmen Chenal.