Representative Stringer is in the news again. This time it is regarding charges he faced regarding sex offenses thirty-five years ago. Some of the charges were dismissed outright by the prosecutor. Stringer accepted a plea of Probation before Judgment (PBJ) on others. He never pled guilty, nor was he ever convicted of any of the charges. The record was subsequently expunged.
Note: In full disclosure, Representative David Stringer is an investor in the eNews websites. It is our policy to provide as much information as possible on all issues, without regard to Stringer’s investment. For this article, Representative Stringer did respond to an interview request.
The 1983 arrest is the subject of two recent news articles:
David Stringer’s False Arrest Drives Empathy For Those Trapped In Unjust System, by Loretta Hunnicutt, published on January 16, 2019 in the Arizona Daily Independent. This article was also published on Stringer's facebook page last week.
Updated: State Rep. David Stringer Charged With Child Porn in 1983, Court Records Show, by Steven Hsieh, published on January 25, 2019 in the Phoenix New Times.
Additionally, there are other reports in additional publications which are largely based on the above articles.
How did the publications obtain their information?
The record of the entire case was expunged from the Maryland courts in 1990. It is not known how the Phoenix New Times obtained the records, although they claim the information was obtained lawfully.
The Phoenix New Times also admits receiving a letter from the Maryland Judiciary that read in part,
"Because the law prohibits reviewing and disclosing information from an expunged record, you are instructed to destroy or return these records immediately…"
That begs the question as to whether or not publishing this information was legal. However, that question is probably moot, since the information is now known.
How did the Arizona Daily Independent obtain their information? From an interview with Representative Stringer.
Hunnicutt explains, "He came to us with the story because his higher profile (thanks to comments made regarding immigration) has made him a favorite target of the media, and at least one newspaper was trying to dig into his past in the hopes of sensationalizing his ancient history. Questions he received from a reporter made it pretty obvious they were preparing a hatchet job on him."
What is expungement?
The website maintained by the Maryland State Law Library explains:
- " Expungement is a process that lets you ask the court to remove certain kinds of court and police records from public view. Expungement generally applies to records that did not result in a conviction…"
- For most offenses, if you have been convicted (found guilty), the records about that charge cannot be expunged.
Responses from the Arizona House of Representatives
Speaker of the House Rusty Bowers (R-25) today released the following statement regarding Representative David Stringer (R-1):
“I was surprised and extremely disturbed to read the report today on Representative Stringer,” said Speaker Bowers. “I spoke to him and expressed my deep concern with the article and its implications. 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. There are myriad calls for Rep. Stringer’s resignation and other actions, and I hope that Rep. Stringer will reflect on the impacts of these reports as he considers whether to continue in his office.”
Representative Kelly Townsend released the following statement regarding Representative David Stringer (LD1):
“After reviewing the reports in two different articles today regarding events in Rep. David Stringer’s previous court records, I am deeply concerned about the nature of the complaints,” said Representative Townsend. “I believe at this point, it is prudent and proper for Rep. Stringer to step down from his position in the House. The reputation of our institution must remain intact, and the cumulative and escalating nature of the recent unfortunate events places that in jeopardy. Out of respect for all Arizonans, I believe his resignation is due. Further, I intend to file a complaint with the Ethics Committee on Monday afternoon.”
Representative Stringer responds
Representative Stringer, who maintains he was falsely accused, has given no indication he is willing to resign.
"First of all, any kind of porn allegations were completely dismissed," Stringer stated. "They never found any evidence of porn whatsoever."
Stringer, who lived in Maryland at the time, said he accepted a plea of 'probation before judgment' on a couple of the charges, because it was a form of diversion, not a conviction. "I was never required to plead guilty, and there was never any conviction," Stringer said. "That is the only reason I accepted the plea offer from the prosecutor’s office."
What is a 'Probation Before Judgment' plea?
- There is not a "probation before judgment" plea equivalent in Arizona.
- The decision to enter and accept a PBJ is entirely up to the judge.
- "...probation before judgment is not a conviction in Maryland," according to Attorney Randolph Rice’s website. "By the court’s entry of a probation before judgment, you have not been convicted."
- "A PBJ is NOT a conviction, but requires a period of supervised or unsupervised probation. The defendant must successfully complete the probation," explains the Cochran and Chhabra Attorneys at Law website. Their website states that defendants are typically ineligible for a PBJ for cases involving a sex crime against a child.
Stringer states that he is not guilty
"I was a practicing attorney at the time, and the Washington D.C. Bar Association reviewed the case, finding that my actions did not merit any disciplinary action."
Stringer said he was admitted to the Maryland Bar Association in 1991. He made the appropriate disclosures on his application, but there were never any issues and he was admitted without question.
"I’ve been an active attorney for over 40 years and have an unblemished record."
"The allegations are false, and I am not guilty," Stringer states. "It is because I was a victim of false accusations, but escaped the worst of consequences, that I have chosen to spend the rest of my career helping others. I suppose you can say that this experience explains why I am a crusader for criminal justice reform."
Stringer concluded, "I welcome the review by the Ethics committee that Representative Townsend said she will request, because there is nothing there and I have done nothing wrong. There is no guilty plea, no conviction. I have no record, I have done nothing wrong."