Arizona state senator accused of molestation resigning
PHOENIX (AP) — An Arizona state senator facing child molestation charges who had been getting increasing pressure to step down is resigning.
Republican Senate President Karen Fann said Tuesday that Democratic Sen. Tony Navarrete sent her a brief email informing her that he is resigning immediately.
The action came amid increasing bipartisan pressure on the Phoenix lawmaker to step down from his seat representing a Phoenix-area district.
Navarrete was arrested last week by Phoenix police after a now-16-year-old boy came forward and said Navaratte had molested him starting when he was 12 or 13 years old and continuing until he was 15. A police probable cause statement filed in support of the charges says detectives recorded a call between the boy and the senator where he reportedly acknowledged the molestation and apologized.
Navarrete faces multiple charges of sexual conduct with a minor and a child molestation charge and was released on $50,000 bond on Saturday. He did not enter a plea during an initial court appearance on Friday where a prosecutor said he faced a mandatory minimum sentence of 49 years in prison if convicted of all charges.
In a statement Tuesday, Navarrete said “serious allegations have been made against me. I adamantly deny all allegations that have been made and will pursue all avenues in an effort to prove my innocence. In doing so, I will be focusing the vast majority of my time and energy on my defense.”
“While I would love nothing more than to continue to serve the families of Arizona’s 30th District, I worry it will be impossible to give my constituents the full attention they deserve. Therefore, I must resign my post as Arizona State Senator today,” Navarrete added.
In addition to demands that he step down from Fann, Democratic Senate Minority Leader Rebecca Rios and GOP Gov. Doug Ducey, Navarrete faced a likely investigation by the Senate Ethics Committee that could have led to his expulsion.
Fann and Rios issue a joint statement Tuesday saying they will would notify Ducey and Secretary of State Katie Hobbs of the vacancy in the 30th Legislative District, which covers parts of west Phoenix and Glendale.
“This was the right thing to do considering the serious allegations,” Fann and Rios said in a statement. “We know that the Arizona Judicial Branch will deliver justice and pray for healing and support for all victims.”
A replacement from the same party will be chosen by the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. Normally, local Democratic Party officials would vet candidates, but there are now fewer than the required number of elected precinct committeemen in the district. Instead, a citizen’s committee will be chosen by the board to develop a list of three candidates for supervisors to choose from.