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Democrats have another crime problem: several officeholders face felony corruption or sex charges

A flurry of Democratic lawmakers have suddenly resigned and/or been indicted over the last six months in connection with charges ranging from corruption to sexual predation.

Published: January 17, 2022 1:49pm

Updated: January 17, 2022 11:19pm

Even as Democrats' face growing political perceptions that they are soft on crime due to a breakdown of law and order across blue-state urban centers, they now face an unexpected new crime problem: a wave of allegations implicating their officeholders themselves in committing crimes.

A flurry of Democratic (and several Republican) lawmakers have suddenly resigned and/or been indicted over the last six months in connection with a wide range of charges, including embezzlement, campaign finance violations, perjury, defrauding CARES Act relief programs, and child sexual assault. 

Sexual Abuse

In August, Arizona state Senator Otoniel "Tony" Navarrete (D-Phoenix) resigned following his arrest on four charges of sexual conduct with a minor, in addition to "other charges," which the police would not describe at the time.

The investigation into Navarrete unfolded quickly after the police received allegations of sexual conduct between the lawmaker and a minor that began in 2019. In a phone call between Navarrete and the alleged victim that was recorded by the police, Navarrete admitted to apologized for his actions. 

"Of course, I regret any bad actions that I did, absolutely wishing everything could be different," Navarrete, 35, told the victim. "I'm sorry, mijo." 

Despite the phone call, Navarrete is denying the allegations against him. If convicted on all counts, the former legislator faces a mandatory minimum sentence of 49 years in prison.

Former Erie County Democratic Committee Chair Steven Pigeon, 61, was arrested in upstate New York in early December last year and charged with five felony counts of rape and predatory sexual assault involving a child. The child in question was younger than 11 at the time the assaults allegedly occurred on a fall evening in 2016. Pigeon, who pleaded guilty several years ago to bribing a judge and making an illegal $25,000 donation to ex-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's 2014 reelection campaign, allegedly engaged in sexual intercourse with the child. 

"I believe he should be in jail for the rest of his life," District Attorney John Flynn said at a news conference following Pigeon's arraignment. "This is rape. This isn't child molestation."

Embezzlement

In the realm of financial crimes, a Delaware County, Pa. state lawmaker was charged with theft and several other crimes following several years of investigative efforts into allegations of the misuse of campaign and taxpayer funds.

State Rep. Margo Davidson (D-Upper Darby) — the first black woman elected to the state House from Delaware County — was indicted by the Pennsylvania attorney general's office for allegedly requesting overnight reimbursements for time that the representative did not actually spend in Harrisburg. 

State Attorney General Josh Shapiro's office said that Davidson, 58, was personally reimbursed by taxpayers for expenses that had already been paid for by her campaign. Investigators reported that Davidson at one point attempted to convince a direct witness to lie on her behalf. The AG alleged that between 2017 and 2019, nearly one third of her per diem reimbursements for hotel stays were fraudulent.

Following the indictment, Davidson resigned, telling her constituents on the way out that "you may have other representatives, but none that will love you more."

In September, prosecutors in Milwaukee filed felony embezzlement charges against Alderwoman and Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate Chantia Lewis.

The District Attorney's office alleges Lewis defrauded the city of Milwaukee and her campaign of more than $21,000. Lewis is accused, much like Davidson, of double-billing the city and her campaign fund for travel expenses, in addition to depositing campaign contributions into her personal bank account. 
Lewis has pleaded not guilty, and she remains in the Democratic primary for Senate. "Make no mistake, I am innocent of any criminal wrongdoing," Lewis said.

Corruption

Just last week, Baltimore's top prosecutor Marilyn Mosby was indicted by a grand jury on charges pertaining to lying on a mortgage application and citing financial hardships due to COVID-19 as the reason to withdraw tens of thousands of dollars from her city retirement account. 

Mosby gained national attention when she brought charges against six police officers involved in the death of Freddie Gray, who died while in police custody. Three of the accused officers were acquitted at trial, and all charges were dropped against the remaining three. All six later returned to work.

Mosby's attorney claims that the charges against his client are both politically and racially motivated, as Mosby is just five months out from a reelection campaign for her third term. 

In New Mexico, former state House Majority Leader Sheryl Williams Stapleton is facing up to 79 years in prison if convicted on all criminal charges that were handed down by a grand jury in September. 

The Democrat from Albuquerque was indicted on charges of racketeering, money laundering and fraud in connection with what prosecutors are calling an elaborate scheme to create illicit financial gains for herself through a deal she helped arrange through her position as head of the career and technical education department at Albuquerque Public Schools. Prior to her indictment, she was dismissed by the school district.

Williams Stapleton, 64, has denied any wrongdoing, but she did resign her legislative seat in late July. 

Arizona state Rep. Jake Hoffman weighed in on the increasing number of lawmakers facing criminal charges and the impact the corruption is having on the trust between the public and their representatives.

"The real pandemic facing America is the systemic corruption and institutionalized double standards of the 'ruling class,'" Hoffman told Just the News. "The American people are rightfully fed up with the relentless self-enrichment and lack of accountability of the political elites. The systemic corruption amongst Democrat politicians and their media shills is wreaking havoc on public trust and rendering some of our nation's most foundational institutions worthless to the average American." 

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