Former Rep. David Stringer repeatedly invited underage boys into his home for sex, according to records obtained during a House ethics investigation of the recently-resigned lawmaker.
The Prescott Republican was charged with eight sex-related offenses in 1983 after a teenage boy revealed details of illegal sexual encounters with Stringer that began the year before.
Stringer found the two boys, one of whom was developmentally disabled, in a Baltimore City park and invited them to his home to “have some sex,” according to police records obtained by a private investigator hired by outside counsel for the House Ethics Committee.
One unnamed victim interviewed by detectives said Stringer paid each of the boys $10 after the first encounter.
On the last occasion in July 1983, the victim said he took a shower with Stringer – who the child referred to as “Mr. Dave” – according to the report.
Private investigator Peter Spaulding provided the police report to the House’s investigators, noting one of the boys later became a sex offender, “which is often the case with victims of sexual abuse,” he wrote in a March 25 email delivering the document to outside counsel.
Two days after investigators obtained the report, Stringer resigned.
In a statement posted on his Facebook page before dawn on Saturday, Stringer maintained he is innocent of the sex charges, and said the “salacious allegations of sexual improprieties … had no basis in fact.”
Stringer wrote that he took the plea deal – which he said meant accepting a disposition that did not require him to plead guilty or result in a conviction – because while he was confident he would be cleared of the charges in a trial, there was still a chance he could lose.
“And that meant losing everything I had and everything I imagined I might ever have. I took the deal, maintained my innocence and was never tried on any of the false charges,” he wrote.
Stringer also blamed his “political opponents” for digging up the charges, saying they sought to drive him from politics because they “disagree with my views.”
“The media, as you might expect, is treating accusations like they are convictions, and they are setting out to destroy my reputation,” he wrote. “What I will say is that the charges I faced in 1983 are as false today as they were 35 years ago. I had forgotten exactly how sharp the gut-punch sensation was when I first heard about them way back then. But seeing them splashed around in headlines today by people celebrating them takes me back to the same feelings I had then.”
Stringer took aim at legislative leaders who “forced” him to resign, calling their actions “deeply and shamefully offensive to free elections and democratic governance.”
The graphic details from a Baltimore City police report were part of more than 400 pages of public documents released by the House Ethics Committee today.
According to the report, Stringer turned himself over to police after a warrant was issued for his arrest. Stringer was not found guilty on any of the eight charges filed against him. Instead, he agreed to “probation before judgement,” which under Maryland law is not an admission of guilt.
Robert Hammerman, the Maryland judge who presided over the Stringer case, was also accused of sexual misconduct with minors.
A court disposition released by the Ethics Committee details that Stringer agreed to attend a diversion program and complete 1,040 hours of community service over a five-year span and pay unspecified court fees. Prosecutors dropped three of the eight charges.
Had Stringer faced similar charges today, such an agreement would not be allowed under Maryland law. Probation before judgement is now barred for charges related to the sexual abuse of a minor.
House Ethics Chairman Rep. T.J. Shope said he felt the police wrote provided all the evidence the Ethics Committee needed to take action against Stringer.
Stringer had been fighting to keep a letter from the D.C. Bar away from the public despite a subpoena for that and other documents. His attorney, Carmen Chenal, told the Arizona Capitol Times that the letter had cleared Stringer of any wrongdoing, “but there’s some information in there that could be misinterpreted, not by you, but by someone from the New Times.”
Shope said the police report reveals exactly why it was so important to Stringer to keep the letter away from the Ethics Committee.
House Speaker Rusty Bowers said he was shared “the appalling and sickening” details from the police report soon after it was obtained.
In a statement, Bowers said he confronted Stringer over the police report on Wednesday afternoon and demanded Stringer resign, “which he finally did,” Bowers stated.
Senate President Karen Fann, who represents Legislative District 1, had not seen the report for herself when the Capitol Times contacted her. She was stunned by what she heard.
“Oh my god. You have no idea how ill I feel right now, listening to this,” she said. “This is obviously extremely disturbing … These kinds of things are the kind of things that make your stomach turn.”
Bowers also released a joint statement with House Minority Leader Charlene Fernandez expressing “shock and horror.”
“This is not about politics, it’s about the safety and security of children. It will not be easy, but for the sake of our state, for children, and for this institution that we love, we must resolve to move forward from this,” they wrote.
The report was just 14 of 426 pages released publicly today. More information will be shared as it is reviewed. The complete set of documents is available below.
Ben Giles contributed to this report.