Arizona state senator accused of sexual conduct with minor

Aug 6, 2021, 10:16 AM | Updated: 5:51 pm

In this undated photo released by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office shows Arizona State Sen. Tony Navarrete. Sen. Navarrete has been arrested on suspicion of charges accusing him of sexual conduct with a minor, police said Friday, Aug. 6, 2021. (Maricopa County Sheriff's Office via AP)

(Maricopa County Sheriff's Office via AP)

PHOENIX (AP) — Democratic Arizona state Sen. Tony Navarrete was charged with multiple sex crimes involving a minor and his bond set at $50,000 during his initial court appearance on Friday.

Navarrete, 35, did not enter a plea on the charges, including child molestation and sexual contact with a minor. He appeared by video from jail, most of the time holding an iPad so that only his forehead could be seen.

Navarrete is accused of repeatedly abusing a boy with whom he was living with over a period of several years, according to court records. The boy, now 16, told detectives that Navarrete touched his genitals with his hands and mouth, starting when he was around 12 or 13 and continuing through his 15th birthday. The teen said he suffers from anxiety and anger that stems from the abuse.

The teen’s younger brother, now 13, told police that Navarrete touched his upper leg inside his shorts, causing the boy to slap away the hand and get up, detectives wrote in a probable cause affidavit filed in court.

Police said the 16-year-old boy called authorities on Wednesday.

In a recorded phone call on Thursday afternoon, Navarrete apologized to the teen, saying he regretted his actions and would have to live with them for the rest of his life, according to the court records. Asked why he did it, he told the boy he “wasn’t well,” detectives wrote.

Maricopa County Superior Court Commissioner Steve McCarthy set the $50,000 bond requested by prosecutor Jeanine Sorrentino. Sorrentino said Navarrete faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 49 years if he’s convicted of all charges. A defense attorney for Navarrete, Roland Rillos, requested a $15,000 bond, saying Navarrete has no prior criminal history and is not a flight risk.

McCarthy also ordered Navarrete to surrender his passport and avoid contact with all minors if he’s released.

Navarrete was jailed and could not be reached for comment.

Navarrete, who represents a west Phoenix district, was a rising star in the Democratic Party and was considered a likely candidate for statewide office, perhaps as soon as 2022. He is serving his second term in the Senate after one term in the House.

Navarrete announced earlier this week that he had tested positive for COVID-19 and was experiencing minor symptoms while isolating at home.

Legislative Democrats asked Navarrete to resign after he appeared in court and details of the alleged abuse were released.

“The circumstances and serious nature of the felony charges faced by Senator Navarrete provide an untenable distraction from his role as an elected official and public servant for District 30,” the statement said. “He should do the right thing for all involved and immediately resign from the Legislature.”

Before his court appearance, Republican Sen. Kelly Townsend said on Twitter she took the position that Navarrete was innocent unless proven guilty.

“However, if it’s true, then I don’t ever want to lay eyes on you again, @NavarreteA,” Townsend said in her tweet.

The Arizona Legislature is not in session. Lawmakers finished the 2021 regular session in late June and, unless a special session is called, will next convene in January for the 2022 regular session.

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Associated Press writer Jonathan J. Cooper contributed to this report.

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Arizona state senator accused of sexual conduct with minor