An Arizona state senator facing multiple felony child molestation charges was one of several sponsors of a Democrat-led bill calling for sex education classes for pupils as young as kindergarten age.
Although the bill, SB1340, died in committee last January, Sen. Otoniel “Tony” Navarette was a key sponsor of the legislation that would have required all schools in Arizona to teach sex education instruction starting in kindergarten.
The bill’s other sponsors were Arizona Sens. Lela Alston, Kirsten Engel, Rosanna Gabaldon, Sally Gonzales, Juan Mendez, Jamescita Peshlakai, Athena Salmon, and Raquel Teran.
According to the proposed legislation, dubbed then as the “Safe and Healthy Students Act,” the bill sought to provide “sex education that is medically accurate and age-appropriate for pupils who are in kindergarten programs and in grades one through twelve.”
Other key provisions included a focus on helping pupils “gain knowledge” on the various developmental aspects of adolescence, “including how pregnancy occurs,” to help pupils develop skills in decision making regarding sexuality and relationships, and to discuss groups, such as LGBTQ, that “historically have been more vulnerable to sexual abuse and assault,” as well as matters involving “affirmative consent.”
Navarette, 35, described by his peers as a “rising star” in Arizona’s Democratic Party, was arrested last week on charges that included seven felony counts involving alleged sexual misconduct with two young boys.
Both alleged victims were under 14 at the time of the alleged sexual abuse.
A judge set Navarette’s bail at $50,000.
“These are very disturbing charges,” Arizona Superintendent of Instruction Kathy Hoffman, a Democrat, said in a tweet, “and while everyone is innocent until proven guilty, Senator Navarette needs to resign. We must hold our elected leaders to the highest standards.”
Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, said similar.
“These are incredibly disturbing allegations. Senator Navarrete should resign immediately,” Hobbs tweeted.
The Arizona House Democratic Caucus released a statement Friday saying they were “deeply alarmed by the arrest of Senator Tony Navarette, and these are obviously very serious and disturbing allegations.”
“We will always strongly support survivors of sexual abuse and have no tolerance for any harm caused to children. Until more is known, it is important at this point to let law enforcement do its job and conduct a thorough and complete investigation providing due process for all involved,” the statement added.
A probable cause affidavit filed in Maricopa County Superior Court described in lurid detail the sexual misconduct that allegedly took place at a Phoenix residence beginning in 2019.
One of the victims recalled waking up to Navarette allegedly touching his genitals and then performing oral sex on the youth.
The boy, now 16, said that he currently suffers from anxiety and anger issues stemming from the alleged abuse.
The victim’s 13-year-old brother told authorities Navarette allegedly touched his upper leg, but the boy swatted his hand away.
In a secretly recorded phone call, one of the victims asked Navarette if he regrets touching him.
“Otoniel responded saying of course I regret any bad actions that I did. Absolutely wishing everything could be different,” the probable cause affidavit said.
Navarette then told the victim he “wasn’t well. Otoniel told the victim that nothing he did was his fault. Otoniel said he was regretful,” the statement added.