PHOENIX — State Rep. David Stringer acknowledged Friday he was arrested decades ago on multiple sex-related charges but said he has "no criminal record'' despite a plea agreement.
And he said it was wrong of New Times, a Phoenix newspaper, to use information from Maryland criminal records that were supposed to have been sealed.
New Times reported Friday that Stringer, then working in Washington, D.C., was charged with five sex-related offenses including child pornography in 1983 while living in Baltimore.
The paper reported he eventually pleaded guilty to three — Stringer's account has two — with an agreement that would result in the records being erased if he successfully completed probation.
"I have never been convicted of a crime,'' Stringer, a Prescott Republican, told Capitol Media Services. "The case was expunged 29 years ago.''
Stringer declined to go into detail about why he agreed to plead guilty.
"I have no records,'' he said. "It would be irresponsible to try to comment on allegations from 35 years ago for which I was not convicted and which have been expunged.''
Stringer said he remains a member of the Maryland Bar, which regulates attorneys, so "it might be illegal'' for him to provide details of sealed and expunged records.
Instead, he referred to a separate article published Jan. 16 in the Arizona Daily Independent which he said "looks reasonably fair and accurate.'' Stringer denied being the source of that information even though the article quotes him directly.
According to the Arizona Daily Independent, police came to Stringer's house in 1983 with a search warrant accusing him of possessing pornography and patronizing prostitutes.
The article said Stringer had no pornography and that the other charges came from prostitutes who, already arrested, offered up names of alleged clients.
Eventually prosecutors offered Stringer something called "probation before judgment'' on two misdemeanors. That is not a conviction, and the records were to be expunged after the probationary period ended. The probation required him to perform 208 hours of community service a year.
That, in turn, saved his government job and his legal career.
Arizona House Speaker Rusty Bowers, who had previously disciplined Stringer for remarks made last year about race and immigration, said he spoke with him and "expressed my deep concern with the article and its implications.''
Bowers acknowledged that Stringer may have have the charges expunged. But he said that doesn't end the matter.
"Rep. Stringer may have fulfilled the legal consequences of his actions, but I believe that charges of this nature cast a shadow over the entire Legislature and his ability to be an effective legislator,'' the speaker said Friday in a prepared statement.
Bowers also said there are "myriad calls'' for Stringer, a second-term legislator, to resign.
Among them are House Democrats, said Rep. Reginald Bolding, D-Laveen.
Support for Stringer also is crumbling among Republicans.
"I believe at this point it is proper for Rep. Stringer to step down from his position in the House,'' said Rep. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa. "The reputation of our institution must remain intact, and the cumulative and escalating nature of the recent unfortunate events places that in jeopardy.''
Townsend also said she intends to file a complaint with the Ethics Committee on Monday.
An aide to Gov. Doug Ducey pointed out that he had called for Stringer to resign last year in the wake of his comments about race and immigration. "The governor has been clear on this,'' said Elizabeth Berry. "Today, he reiterated that call.''
There was no immediate response from Jonathan Lines, the chairman of the Arizona Republican Party, who also had asked Stringer to resign last year.
Senate President Karen Fann, who represents the same district as Stringer, told Capitol Media Services she did not believe he could be an effective representative for the area.
The new disclosure comes just a day after Stringer publicly apologized on the House floor for making those comments, which included saying that non-European immigrants do not blend in, including African-Americans whose ancestors were brought here as slaves, and that immigration poses an "existential threat'' to the United States. But he did not rescind any of those comments.