On Friday the Phoenix New Times published records from a Maryland court apparently showing Republican Arizona State Representative David Stringer was charged with several sex crimes, including possession of child pornography, while living in Baltimore in 1983.
The expunged record of David Stringer
On Friday afternoon the Phoenix New Times published an explosive article based on Maryland court records sent to the newspaper by mistake.
The records appear to show that Stringer was charged with five sex crimes (including one charge of “child pornography”), that he was awarded a sentence of “probation before judgement” on three counts, and that he was sentenced to five years probation and an order to seek therapy from a well-known Maryland clinic.
Stringer’s record was expunged in 1990. As such, its contents are meant to be kept confidential and (in legal terms at least) treated as if they never existed.
Maryland authorities instructed the New Times to destroy or return the documents, but the newspaper decided there was a strong public interest in the past criminal record of a sitting state legislator.
A previously published article
After the publication of the New Times article a previously published article by a conservative blog, the Arizona Daily Independent, suddenly gained new prominence.
Dated January 16th 2019 (a date confirmed by the Internet Archive), the article tells the story of Stringer’s 1983 arrest and his decision not to contest charges brought against him.
According to the story he was originally accused of “possession of pornography and patronizing prostitutes,” but it is not clear what exact offense Stringer claims he was charged with.
The account is light on detail and portrays Stringer in a very sympathetic tone. It says he was falsely accused by criminals who gave up his name to get lighter sentences of their own. The decision to accept a deal was purely pragmatic – he was offered probation and a promise to expunge his record. Taking his case to trial still carried risk he could lose. The entire story is framed as the origin of Stringer’s interest in criminal justice reform.
The Daily Independent article contains multiple quotes attributed to Stringer but names no other sources..
Problematically, Stringer has denied being the source of the article.
“It would be irresponsible to try to comment on allegations from 35 years ago for which I was not convicted and which have been expunged,” he told Capitol Media Services. He also added that as a serving member of the Maryland Bar, it could even be illegal for him to comment on an sealed and expunged records.
Despite severely undercutting the authority of the Daily Independent article, Stringer still told Capitol Media Services it “looks reasonably fair and accurate.”
Renewed calls on David Stringer to resign
In June 2018 David Stringer provoked national outrage when he said “there aren’t enough white kids to go around” in Arizona schools.
Despite calls for over the summer his resignation from Arizona Governor Doug Ducey and then Arizona GOP chair Jonathan Lines, Stringer held on. Now the calls for his resignation have increased.
Ducey renewed his demand that Stringer step down when speaking to reporters on Friday, saying, “I’ve already said he should resign and step down, and I stand by that statement.”
Republican representative Kelly Townsend says she will file an ethics complaint.
“The reputation of our institution must remain intact, and the cumulative and escalating nature of the recent unfortunate events places that in jeopardy,” she said in a statement.
Democratic leaders are unified in asking for Stringer’s resignation. Party spokesperson Les Braswell said, “These latest revelations of sexual misconduct go beyond the pale of his already disgusting behavior as an elected official in Arizona.”
Stringer has told KPNX-TV he has no plans to resign, and wants to stay in the legislature to pursue criminal justice reform.
One reform introduced by Stringer for the 2019 legislative session, HB2300, would make it easier for convicted sex offenders to remove their names from sex offender registration lists.