The Arizona State Bar has dismissed a complaint against State Representative David Stringer, determining there is no clear evidence that he failed to make the required disclosures when he applied to practice law in this state.
The state bar began investigating Stringer after Phoenix New Times revealed that the Republican lawmaker was charged in Baltimore in 1983 for five sex crimes, including child pornography. Stringer lived in the Maryland city at the time.
A Maryland court entered a judgment of guilt for Stringer on three of the charges and sentenced him to probation, according to a copy of a microfiche case history obtained by New Times. He was also instructed to "seek admission" at a well-known clinic for people with sexual disorders.
Stringer’s Maryland criminal history was expunged in 1990, meaning it is all but impossible to divine precisely what happened in his court case without the cooperation of witnesses or lawyers who were involved with it back in the 1980s.
Applicants for the Arizona bar are expected to disclose any criminal history, including arrests and expunged records, according to Aaron Nash, a spokesperson for the Arizona Supreme Court, which oversees bar admittance. Convictions for serious misdemeanors or felonies typically prevent admittance to the bar, Nash said.
Stringer has said he was not convicted of any of his 1983 offenses, but rather given a sentence of "probation before judgment" on two of the charges, which he claims were misdemeanors. He maintains that he was wrongfully arrested and pressured into a plea deal out of fear of a harsher sentence had he taken his case to trial.
Stringer told Matthew McGregor, the Arizona State Bar lawyer who conducted the investigation, that he made all required disclosures when he applied to practice law here in 2004. But when McGregor asked the Arizona Supreme Court Admissions Office for Stringer's application, he was advised it no longer existed. That's not unusual, because the state bar only keeps those records for seven years after a lawyer is admitted.
Stringer also told McGregor that he was licensed to practice law in Washington, D.C., at the time and a panel that reviews attorneys' ethics cases declined to take action against him after his charges. McGregor confirmed that the District of Columbia Disciplinary Counsel reviewed Stringer's arrest in 1984 and dismissed the matter.
In a letter to Carmen Chenal, Stringer's lawyer, McGregor wrote: "At this time, it does not appear that there is clear and convincing evidence or that such evidence could be developed to support the allegation that Representative Stringer failed to make the required and appropriate disclosures in seeking admission to the State Bar of Arizona."
McGregor added that an investigation could be reopened if new information became available.
Stringer still faces an investigation ordered by the House Ethics Committee related to his sex charges. That investigation, expected to be completed by the end of March, is also looking into racist comments made by Stringer in July and November.
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Democratic lawmakers have indicated that they are seeking to expel Stringer. In January, House Speaker Rusty Bowers punted on a motion to remove Stringer from office pending the ethics investigation.
Read the letter announcing the dismissal of Stringer's bar complaint:
This is a developing story and will be updated with new information.