August 11, 2021 1:31pm
Updated: August 11, 2021 9:51pm
State Sen. Otoniel "Tony" Navarrete has stepped down at the demand of a bipartisan chorus of state officials.
Navarrete, a Phoenix Democrat, faces several felony charges of sexual relations with young boys. He notified Senate President Karen Fann late Tuesday he would resign immediately but later issued a statement claiming he is innocent.
“I adamantly deny all allegations that have been made and will pursue all avenues in an effort to prove my innocence," Navarrete said.
Fann confirmed the resignation, saying it was the right decision.
“This was the right thing to do considering the serious allegations,” she said in a joint statement with Senate Minority Leader Rebecca Rios.
Navarrete, 35, was arrested Friday after police interviewed one of his alleged victims and then monitored a phone call between the boy and the lawmaker. Police said he admitted to sexual acts with the minor. In a police report, Navarrete admitted to graphic nonconsensual sexual acts with two boys over the course of several years. Police arrested him at his home, where he was quarantined because of a COVID-19 infection.
Navarrete was charged with seven felonies. If convicted, he would serve at least 49 years in prison. He is free after posting bail Saturday. He’s scheduled to attend a status hearing Thursday in Maricopa County Superior Court.
While it’s not known whether he perpetrated the alleged acts while working, Navarrete’s employer announced it had placed him on leave upon hearing of the charges and soon would fire him.
“We are heartbroken by the news of the details and arrest surrounding Otoniel Navarrete,” Neighborhood Ministries Executive Director Jeremy Wood said in a statement. “As soon as we were made aware of the details of the arrest and allegations, Tony was placed on leave per our personnel guidelines and will be formally terminated when the leave ends.”
Wood said Navarrete didn’t have contact with children or minors served by the community nonprofit.
Navarrete’s resignation from the state Senate starts a process of notifications and deliberation by local officials who will choose the replacement to complete the remaining year and a half remaining in his term.