Former Rep. David Stringer faced charges alleging that he had repeated sexual contact with two boys younger than 15 years old, including one who was intellectually disabled, according to Baltimore police records released Friday by the House Ethics Committee.
According to the reports, an underage boy told Baltimore police in 1983 that he had at least 11 sexual encounters with Stringer, including oral sex and sodomy.
The intellectually disabled boy told Baltimore detectives that the encounters began in 1982, when Stringer approached him and another boy at a park in Baltimore and asked if they would come to his home for sex. The boys agreed, and the boys and Stringer performed oral sex on each other, the boy told police. Stringer was 36 years old at the time of his arrest.
The boy said Stringer paid him and his friend $10 apiece for the encounter. According to one of the reports, the boy said he saw “Mr. Dave” at least 10 more times after the initial encounter. The last time was in July 1983, when Stringer and the boy engaged in oral sex and sodomy, the boy told police.
Stringer turned himself into police in September 1983, in response to an arrest warrant, police reports stated. He was charged with several sex offenses and charges of perverted practices. Police reports stated that Stringer had sexual contact with a child under 14 years of age and a child who was “15 years of age and is mentally defective or mentally incapacitated.” The boy was 16 at the time he reported the sexual encounters, according to a police report. It is not known how old the other boy was.
Carmen Chenal, Stringer’s attorney, said the allegations in the reports are false. She said the Maryland court pleaded the charges down to fourth-degree petty offenses, and that he was never convicted. Stringer and Chenal have said he took a plea of “probation before judgment,” which does not include any findings or admissions of guilt.
Chenal did not respond to additional questions about the case, such as whether Stringer knew the boys who made the accusations or what his relationship was with them.
The police reports were among 426 pages of documents released by the Ethics Committee that it collected during its investigation into two complaints against Stringer. Rep. T.J. Shope, who chairs the committee, said he obtained the documents through a public records request earlier in the week. Stringer resigned on Wednesday.
House Speaker Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, said the committee obtained the police reports on Tuesday, and after reviewing them on Wednesday, he confronted Stringer with the information they contained and asked for his resignation, which he received.
“The behavior described in Mr. Stringer’s arrest report is absolutely appalling and sickening,” Bowers said in a press statement.
Gov. Doug Ducey tweeted that someone capable of the acts described in the reports has no place at the Capitol.
“These latest reports about David Stringer are disgusting and deeply disturbing. I called on him to resign last year, and it couldn’t have happened soon enough. However, these revelations are far worse than anything we were aware of before,” Ducey tweeted.
These latest reports about David Stringer are disgusting and deeply disturbing. I called on him to resign last year, and it couldn’t have happened soon enough. However, these revelations are far worse than anything we were aware of before. (1/2)
— Doug Ducey (@dougducey) March 29, 2019
Stringer had been under pressure to resign last year after racist comments he’d made became public over the summer and again after the Prescott Republican won re-election in November. But he faced an avalanche of criticism and renewed calls for his resignation after the Phoenix New Times in January reported that he’d faced several sex crime charges in Maryland in 1983, including child pornograpy.
Reps. Reginald Bolding, D-Phoenix, and Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, submitted complaints to the Ethics Committee over the Maryland allegations. Bolding’s complaint also cited the racist comments.
The court records obtained by the New Times show that the court gave him five years of probation and ordered him into a treatment program for sexual disorders at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine for two undescribed charges. The court records don’t show a disposition for the child pornography charge, and the police reports released by the Ethics Committee do not mention child pornography or shed any light on that allegation.
Dr. Frederick Berlin, who founded and runs the clinic Stringer went to, spoke to the Mirror shortly after the New Times revealed the 1983 arrest. He was able to speak generally about what his clinic did and about societal attitudes regarding sex crimes toward children.
Berlin said the way society views such crimes has changed over time.
“Back in the ‘80s I think there was probably much more of a focus on rehabilitation. The country in general later on became much more tough on crime,” he said. “I suspect if you had talked to someone in the early ‘80s and mentioned the term ‘pedophilia’, which everybody’s heard now, I suspect there’s lots of folks back then that wouldn’t have even heard that term.”
Contemporary news coverage suggests that people who were convicted of what would today be considered extremely serious sex crimes sometimes received little punishment. For example, an October 1985 article in The Baltimore Sun about treatment for sex offenders recounted the story of a man who was convicted of sexually abusing his eight-year-old granddaughter. According to the article, the man was sentenced to five years of probation and was ordered into a treatment program, the same sentence Stringer received.
At a joint press conference with Bowers on Friday, House Democratic Leader Charlene Fernandez said Arizona needs to do more to investigate candidates’ backgrounds when they run for office. She suggested fingerprinting candidates, and said it would be appropriate for the state Democratic and Republican to conduct background checks.
“We need to put together some new protocols of how we do our business here and maybe look at what kind of people run for office. We worry about people’s financials when they get ready to run for office. I think we need to start looking into people’s backgrounds. We need to hold ourselves to a higher level,” Fernandez, a Yuma Democrat, said.
Bowers said he’s open to discussing the possibility.
“Those are discussions that the minority leader and I need to have,” Bowers said. “What do we need to do to assure that we can move forward and people can have confidence, as much as is possible in the political arena, in the membership of this house?”
However, fingerprinting wouldn’t have alerted legislators about Stringer’s arrest more than three decades ago. After he finished his probation, Stringer successfully petitioned to have the case expunged from his record.
He also obtained fingerprint clearance in Arizona recently, according to Arizona Department of Education records, said agency spokesman Stefan Swiat. He told Arizona Mirror that the agency has in its files a clearance from the Arizona Department of Public Safety, which allows him to work with children.
Stringer recently received a master’s degree in education from Arizona State University. In December, shortly the media published recordings of Stringer speaking to ASU students about race and saying things like “blacks don’t blend in” to American society, the Humboldt Unified School District announced he was no longer allowed on its campuses.
In the documents released Friday, there is a reference to Stringer having been a student teacher at an unidentified middle school. A call to the Humboldt district offices Friday afternoon was not returned.
Prior to the Ethics Committee obtaining the police reports, Stringer had fought the committee over a 1984 letter from the District of Columbia Bar association dismissing an investigation regarding the sex crimes charges. Stringer provided the letter to the State Bar of Arizona during an investigation into whether he properly disclosed his past legal troubles when he applied to practice law in Arizona.
Chenal insisted that the letter found no “moral turpitude” and that Stringer could continue practicing law in Washington, D.C. But she said a protective order by the Arizona Supreme Court’s presiding disciplinary judge, as well as D.C. Bar confidentiality rules, prevented her from releasing it, which the Ethics Committee’s counsel disputed. She said Stringer would only provide the letter on the condition of confidentiality.
The Arizona Bar dismissed its investigation into Stringer earlier this month, saying there was no evidence that he didn’t make the required disclosures. The Arizona Supreme Court no longer has Stringer’s application on file. He was admitted to the Arizona Bar in 2004.
The Ethics Committee also learned troubling information about the judge in Stringer’s case. Nearly 20 years after Stringer’s arrest, Robert Hammerman faced allegations that he engaged in sexual activity with teenage boys. In 2004, four years after the allegations surfaced publicly, Hammerman committed suicide.
Bowers described the circumstances surrounding the judge as “scandalous.”
“How this could happen is beyond my imagination, how a justice system could fail in this way,” he said.