Every Democratic lawmaker is calling on state Sen. Tony Navarrete to resign as he faces a mandatory minimum of nearly 50 years in prison if convicted on all seven child-sex crime charges he faces.
Navarette, D-Phoenix, was arrested at his Phoenix home late Thursday after police received a report Wednesday detailing several incidents of alleged sexual abuse of two teenage boys. He faces four Class 2 felonies, one Class 3 felony and two Class 6 felonies.
Fellow elected Democrats, starting with Rep. Diego Rodriguez, Secretary of State Katie Hobbs and Superintendent Kathy Hoffman, began calling for him to resign shortly after an initial appearance hearing Friday. The House and Senate Democratic caucuses soon put out a joint statement as well.
“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,” they said in a statement. “Abuse of this kind is intolerable and our hearts go out to the victims.”
Maricopa County Superior Court commissioner Steve McCarthy set Navarrete’s bond at $50,000, with conditions that he also be subject to electronic monitoring if released and has no contact with children while out on bond.
“He should have no contact with minors, absolutely, whether in his family, out of his family, strangers,” Deputy Maricopa County Attorney Jeanine Sorrentino said. “I also think he should be prohibited from going any place where minors would typically hang out, schools, parks, malls, the toy aisle in Target.”
Navarrete faces three Class 2 felony charges and two Class 6 felony charges for sexual conduct with a minor, defined in statute as intercourse or oral sex with a child, as well as a Class 2 felony charge for child molestation and a Class 3 felony charge for attempted sexual conduct with a minor.
Altogether, those charges would carry a mandatory minimum sentence of 49 years, Sorrentino said.
The first alleged victim described four separate incidents over the course of several years in which Navarrete touched him inappropriately for extended periods of time, according to a probable cause statement filed in Maricopa County Superior Court. The second boy told police Navarrete attempted to touch him and he slapped the man’s hand away.
Navarrete acknowledged the abuse during a taped phone call with one alleged victim on Aug. 5, according to written statement. He apologized repeatedly, telling the boy that he did not deserve the abuse and it wasn’t the boy’s fault, and saying he touched the boy because he was “unwell.”
Police arrested him several hours later, and he declined to participate in an interview with a detective.
Earlier Friday, before learning details of the allegations, Navarrete’s Democratic colleagues said they were “deeply alarmed” and “deeply disturbed” but wanted the investigation to play out.
Senate President Karen Fann echoed cries for due process and also declined to say whether Navarrete should resign at this point.
“Everyone is innocent until proven guilty,” she said in a text message.
Rep. Raquel Terán, Navarrete’s seatmate and the chair of the Arizona Democratic Party, said she was “shocked and heartbroken to learn about the reported allegations against State Senator Navarrete.” His other seatmate, Rep. Robert Meza, was returning from a trip to D.C. and said he was out of the loop.
Navarrete had been considered a rising star and was widely expected to announce a campaign for state treasurer. He also shared this week that he tested positive for Covid in a rare breakthrough case despite being vaccinated in February.
Under Arizona law, an elected official who is convicted of a felony while in office is automatically considered to have vacated the position, meaning Navarrete can legally stay in office while his case works its way through the courts but would lose his seat if the case results in a felony conviction. This law has come into play several times in recent Arizona history, perhaps the most high-profile example being when former Gov. Fife Symington was convicted on federal felony fraud charges in 1997 and resigned immediately. Former Maricopa County Assessor Kevin Ross was convicted of a felony conflict of interest charge in 2004 and immediately stripped of his office; the conviction, however, was overturned on appeal. Another former Maricopa County Assessor, Paul Petersen, who has been convicted and sentenced to prison on both federal and state charges related to an illegal adoption scheme where he smuggled women from the Marshall Islands to the U.S., resigned in 2020 before his conviction.
Editor’s note: This story has been revised to include statements from fellow Democrats calling on him to resign.