Tony Navarrete resigns from Arizona Senate amid child sex crime charges

Aug 10, 2021, 2:43 PM | Updated: 5:39 pm
FILE - In this Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018 file photo, then-Rep. Tony Navarrete, D-Phoenix, waits with Ar...

FILE - In this Tuesday, Jan. 9, 2018 file photo, then-Rep. Tony Navarrete, D-Phoenix, waits with Arizona House members receiving mandatory sexual harassment and other ethics issues training on the House floor at the capitol, in Phoenix. Navarrete resigned from the state Senate on Aug. 20, 2021, after his arrest the previous week on suspicion of charges accusing him of sexual conduct with a minor. (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

(AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

PHOENIX – Disgraced Arizona state Sen. Otoniel “Tony” Navarrete resigned Tuesday, the Senate said, less than a week after he was arrested on charges of sexual conduct with a minor.

Leaders from both parties had been calling on the Democrat to step down ever since the graphic details of his alleged crimes were made public in court documents released Friday, a day after he was taken into custody by the Phoenix Police Department.

Navarrete, 35, was in his second term as a senator in District 30, which encompasses parts of Phoenix and Glendale. Before that, he served one term in the House.

“It has been my absolute honor and privilege to represent the communities of Arizona’s 30th District,” Navarrete said in a statement. “Recently, 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.”

He was arrested Thursday night and booked on three counts of sexual conduct with a minor (class 2 felony), two counts of sexual conduct with a minor (class 6 felony), one count of attempted sexual conduct with a minor and one count of molestation of a child.

The alleged crimes started in 2019 with a boy who said he was 12 or 13 at the time, according to the probable cause statement, which also said police recorded a call between the victim and Navarrete where he reportedly acknowledged the molestation and apologized.

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.

Navarrete was released Saturday morning after posting bond, which had been set at $50,000. He is scheduled in court for a status conference on Thursday and preliminary hearing Monday.

Republican Senate President Karen Fann and Minority Leader Rebecca Rios issued a joint statement Tuesday calling Navarrete’s resignation “the right thing to do considering the serious allegations.”

“We will now notify the governor and secretary of state, and the process will begin to find his replacement,” the top-ranking Senate officials from each party said.

A day earlier, they’d united to issue a statement calling for him to step down.

Also Monday, Republican Sen. Kelly Townsend filed a complaint with the Senate Ethics Committee. In it, she said she wants there to be an investigation into whether anybody else at the state Capitol or any government agency knew about the allegations against Navarrete before they became public.

The committee dismissed the formal ethics complaint given Navarrete’s resignation, saying in a statement the committee only has jurisdiction over sitting senators.

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors will appoint a citizen panel to help find a replacement for Navarrete, with the panel being required to submit three names of qualified electors to the board within 21 days. The board will then consider the list of electors and choose a person to fill the vacancy by a majority vote.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Tony Navarrete resigns from Arizona Senate amid child sex crime charges