After days of countless calls for him to step down following an arrest on child sex abuse allegations, Otoniel “Tony” Navarrete resigned his seat in the state Senate on Tuesday afternoon. , but released a separate statement promising to fight back and prove his innocence.
In a brief statement emailed to Senate President Karen Fann, Navarrete wrote, “Effective immediately, I am officially resigning as Arizona State Senator for District 30.”
And in a separate statement from that same email account sent to reporters, Navarrete said he was stepping down so he could devote his time to fighting the serious allegations against him.
“I categorically 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 of Navarrete’s term.
Navarrete’s letter comes five days after he was arrested on seven counts relating to child sex abuse, and follows a torrent of calls for him to step down from the seat to which he was re-elected last year. last fall.
Fann. R-Prescott and Senate Minority Leader Rebecca Rios, D-Phoenix, released a joint statement reflecting bipartisan sentiment about Navarrete’s arrest and his alleged crimes.
“It was the right thing to do, given the serious allegations,” they wrote. “We know the Arizona judiciary will deliver justice and pray for healing and support for all victims.”
Calls for Navarrete’s resignation have crossed the political landscape, from the Arizona Democratic Party to all of Navarrete’s fellow Democrats in the Legislature to Republican Gov. Doug Ducey.
On Monday, State Sen. Kelly Townsend, R-Mesa, filed an ethics complaint, given that Navarrete had not yet retired. His resignation stops this process.
His employer, Neighborhood Church Ministries, placed Navarrete on furlough and said he would be fired when the furlough expired. We don’t know when that will happen.
Navarrete was arrested last week on seven counts: five for sexual conduct with a minor, one for attempted sexual conduct with a minor and a seventh for pedophilia.
The arrest came after a 16-year-old boy turned himself in to Phoenix police with abuse allegations dating back to 2019. The probable cause statement also alleged that Navarrete attempted sexual conduct with a 13-year-old boy. years.
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 youngster was not at fault. At one point, when asked why he assaulted the young man, Navarrete replied that he was “not well”.
He was jailed Thursday and released Saturday on $50,000 bail 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 the vacant seat in the Senate?
With the Senate seat serving Legislative District 30 vacant, the replacement process will begin with the appointment of a citizens’ committee that Maricopa County Supervisor Steve Gallardo will help form. Gallardo, the only Democrat on the five-member council, said the committee must be appointed within seven business days.
The committee is needed because the district does not have the 30 constituency committee members required to make a legislative appointment.
That panel then has three weeks to nominate three nominees, who by law must live in the district and be registered Democrats, because Navarrete is a Democrat.
The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors will select a replacement from the slate of nominees. That person will be sworn in and serve the remainder of Navarrete’s term, which ends in January 2023.
Those interested in applying for the Senate seat may submit cover letters and resumes to the county either by email to [email protected] or by US mail to the Clerk of the Board of Supervisors, 301 W. Jefferson St., Phoenix, AZ 85003. For questions, contact District 5 at 602-506-7092.
Support local journalism. Subscribe to azcentral.com today.