Arizona state Sen. Tony Navarrete resigns seat after arrest in child sex abuse case
After days of countless pleas for him to step down in the wake of an arrest on allegations of child sexual abuse, Otoniel "Tony" Navarrete resigned his state Senate seat Tuesday afternoon but issued a separate statement vowing to fight and prove his innocence.
In a brief statement emailed to Senate President Karen Fann, Navarrete wrote, "Effective immediately, I am officially resigning my post as Arizona State Senator for District 30."
And in another statement from that same email account sent to reporters, Navarrete said he was resigning so he could devote his time to fighting the serious allegations against him.
"I adamantly deny all allegations that have been made and will pursue all avenues in an effort to prove my innocence," he wrote.
The resignation ends a five-year legislative career for the 35-year-old Phoenix Democrat, and triggers a process to name a replacement who will serve the remaining 1 1/2 years in Navarrete's term.
Navarrete's letter came five days after he was arrested on seven felony charges related to child sex abuse, and follows a torrent of calls for him to step down from the seat he was reelected to last fall.
Fann. R-Prescott, and Senate Minority Leader Rebecca Rios, D-Phoenix, issued a joint statement reflecting bipartisan sentiment about Navarrete's arrest and his alleged crimes.
"This was the right thing to do, considering the serious allegations," they wrote. "We know the Arizona Judicial Branch will deliver justice and pray for healing and support for all victims."
Calls for Navarrete to step down spanned the political landscape, from the Arizona Democratic Party to all of Navarrete's Democratic colleagues in the Legislature to Republican Gov. Doug Ducey.
On Monday, state Sen. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, filed an ethics complaint, given Navarrete had not yet stepped aside. His resignation halts that process.
His employer, the faith-based Neighborhood Ministries, put Navarrete on leave and said he will be terminated when the leave expires. It is unclear when that will happen.
Navarrete was arrested last week on seven felony charges: five involving sexual conduct with a minor, one for attempted sexual conduct with a minor and a seventh charge of child molestation.
The arrest came after a 16-year-old boy went to Phoenix police with allegations of abuse dating from 2019. The probable cause statement also alleged that Navarrete attempted sexual conduct with a 13-year-old boy.
The victim spoke with Navarrete in a phone call recorded by Phoenix police. During the call, Navarrete repeatedly expressed regret for his actions and said the youth was not at fault. At one point, when asked why he molested the young man, Navarrete said he was "not well."
He was jailed Thursday and released Saturday on a $50,000 bond and with an electronic monitor. A status conference in his case is scheduled for 10:30 a.m. Thursday in Maricopa County Superior Court.
Who will fill open Senate seat?
With the Senate seat serving Legislative District 30 vacant, the replacement process will start with the appointment of a citizens' committee that Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Gallardo will help form. Gallardo, the lone Democrat on the five-member board, said the committee must be named within seven business days.
The committee is needed because the district does not have the required 30 precinct committee people needed to make a legislative nomination.
That panel then has three weeks to nominate three candidates, who by law must live in the district and be registered Democrats, as Navarrete is a Democrat.
The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors will choose a replacement from the list of nominees. That person will be sworn in and will serve out the rest of Navarrete's term, which ends in January 2023.
People interested in applying for the Senate seat can submit cover letters and resumes to the county, either by email at email@example.com or via U.S. mail to Clerk of the Board of Supervisors, 301 W. Jefferson St., Phoenix, AZ 85003. For questions, contact District 5 at 602-506-7092.
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