Content warning: This article contains graphic descriptions of sexual assault involving children.
Baltimore police arrested former Arizona lawmaker David Stringer four decades ago on suspicion of repeatedly molesting two children — including a "mentally defective or mentally incapacitated” teenager — according to arrest reports released by the House Ethics Committee on Friday.
Baltimore detectives interviewed a 16-year-old boy in August 1983 who said he and another child had oral and penetrative sex with Stringer at least 10 times over the course of a year. On at least one occasion, Stringer paid each boy $10 after molesting them, the report states.
Stringer was either 35 or 36 at the time. One of Stringer’s victims went on to become a sexual offender himself, Phoenix New Times can confirm.
Stringer, a Republican from Prescott, resigned from the Arizona House of Representatives on Wednesday after refusing to cooperate with an independent investigation into his sex charges, which were first revealed by Phoenix New Times in January. The document dump contains records collected by outside counsel Joseph Kanefield of the firm Ballard-Spahr over his weeks-long investigation.
According to an arrest report, the father of one of Stringer’s victims met with Baltimore police and gave them permission to interview his son.
Stringer’s victim told police that Stringer met the boys in Patterson Park near downtown Baltimore.
The section of southeast Baltimore City where Stringer owned several properties in the 1980s, to the west of 55-acre Patterson Park, used to be notorious for prostitution. According to Baltimore Sun stories of that era, men solicited teenage and even preteen boys in the area, leading Baltimore police and social workers to launch an effort to get the boys to stop “hustling.”
The victim said Stringer “asked if they wanted to go to his house and have some sex.” The boys went to Stringer’s apartment.
“Once inside, they went to the bedroom, where [Stringer] performed fellatio on the boys and asked them to do it to him. They did perform the sex act on Mr. Stringer,” according to the arrest report.
The victim said he and the other boy met with Stringer “at least 10 additional times” after their first encounter.
“He said that each time he has been asked to perform acts of fellatio and sodomy with David Stringer,” the report states. The boy also said he took a shower with Stringer, who the boy said played with his penis.
The report states that the father of one of the victims told police the child was “mental (sic) retarded,” using an antiquated term for people who are intellectually disabled.
He turned himself in on September 15, 1983.
Stringer faced eight sex crime charges related to his arrest, the report shows. Maryland prosecutors declined to pursue three of the charges. A report labeled “case disposition” appears to indicate that he entered into a plea deal on the five other charges, including: perverted practice, sex offense in the fourth degree, sex offense in the second degree, and two counts of sexual contact in the third degree.
He was sentenced to five years of supervised probation, as well as community service. He was also ordered to seek admission to the Johns Hopkins Sexual Disorders Clinic.
The arrest report mostly tracks with the details in a microfiche case history that prompted the ethics investigation. The case history, however, listed two child pornography charges for Stringer, which don’t appear to be reflected in the arrest reports.
The disclosures contradict claims Stringer made to Arizona Daily Independent, a conservative news site. He told the site that he was arrested for soliciting two prostitutes and possessing "pornography," claims he denied. According to the site, Stringer maintained his innocence, but took a plea deal in his case out of fear of a harsh prison sentence.
Stringer got his case expunged in 1990, a Baltimore police detective told New Times in December, essentially erasing his criminal record from public view. At the time, Baltimore Police, citing the expungement, had declined to provide New Times any records related to Stringer’s arrest.
The address listed for Stringer on his case history — 1740 Eastern Avenue — sits less than a mile away from Patterson Park.
From the late '70s to late '90s, Stringer purchased or took out mortgages on several properties within walking distance of the park, according to Maryland land records.
Just two months after Stringer was charged, the Baltimore Sun reported that police made 300 prostitution arrests along Eastern Avenue near the park.
Young boys were among those who sold sex in the area. In 1975, the Sun published a story headlined "Children of the night seek $5 high in exchange for homosexual favors." The story reported that men traveled from out of town to the area seeking sex with minors.
"The youngsters, boys ranging in age from 10 to 17 call it 'hustling' and on Eastern avenue, Baltimore street and the row house-lined byways of Highlandtown they are involved in the practice of selling sexual favors to adult male homosexuals."
The judge who sentenced Stringer, Robert Hammerman, took his own life in 2004 after delivering letters to 2,000 people in Baltimore, claiming that he would prefer to die quickly rather than slowly of an illness. Hammerman himself had faced allegations of sexual misconduct with children. One boy accused Hammerman of giving him inappropriate glances while they were showering after a tennis match, the Sun reported in 2000.
Hammerman denied the allegation.
The House Ethics Committee's hired counsel, Kanefield, obtained the police report through a public records request. T.J. Shope, chairman of the Ethics Committee, said he first saw the report on Tuesday. After House Speaker Rusty Bowers saw the report, he decided to ask for Stringer's resignation on Wednesday.
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"They had a long conversation," Shope said in a phone interview with New Times.
Following the revelations, House Democratic Leader Charlene Fernandez and Bowers issued a joint statement on Friday afternoon expressing "shock and horror" at the contents of the police report.
"This is not about politics, it's about the safety and security of children. It will not be easy, but for the sake of our state, for children, and for this institution that we love, we must resolve to move forward from this," they said.