West

California mayor denies endangering children following arrest

Aug. 4, 2016: This booking mug shot released by the Amador County Sheriff's Office shows Anthony Silva, the mayor of Stockton, Calif.

Aug. 4, 2016: This booking mug shot released by the Amador County Sheriff's Office shows Anthony Silva, the mayor of Stockton, Calif.  (Amador County Sheriff's Office via AP)

A California mayor forcefully declared his innocence Friday and said he never endangered children amid allegations that he made secret audio recording of strip game at youth camp run by him.

Stockton Mayor Anthony Silva made the statement at a news conference.

"First of all, everyone there was 18 years old," Silva said, flanked by his attorneys. "I never, ever endangered a child. Never. I never provided alcohol to anyone. I'm innocent and I appreciate your patience."

On Thursday, Silva was charged with a felony of secretly recording confidential communications without consent. He also faces misdemeanor charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor, providing alcohol to people under 21, and child endangerment.

The Stockton police union has called for the resignation of Silva, who prosecutors say audio-recorded a game of strip poker that included a 16-year-old boy and at least four other young adults at a camp for underprivileged children run by the mayor.

The allegations against Silva are "more than just a black eye" for the city, Stockton Police Officers Association spokesman Lee Neves said Thursday.

"This is a devastating body blow," he said. "Given what has gone on over the past two weeks, he's just not able to effectively govern or represent the city anymore."

The allegations surfaced after the financially stressed city emerged from bankruptcy protection last year.

Silva was charged in Amador County on Thursday with misdemeanor counts of furnishing alcohol to minors and child endangerment, and with a felony count of secretly recording confidential communications without consent. He has denied the charges.

It marked the latest scandal for the self-declared champion of children whose government website describes him as a Stockton native and single father who "has a passion for helping youth."

The charges came a week after The Record of Stockton reported that a gun stolen from Silva's home during a burglary was linked to the killing of 13-year-old Rayshawn Harris in Stockton early last year. The mayor is accused of not reporting the gun as missing until a month after the boy was killed.

Silva, who is seeking re-election in the fall, said the timing of the news about the gun was "politically motivated and calculated."

"I've never seen the victim of a theft be trashed in the media like I have," he said.

In a statement, the union said Silva has had "misstep after misstep" that he has "shrugged off" since he was elected mayor in 2012.

An affidavit by a San Joaquin County investigator does not identify the two women and three males it says were playing strip poker in the mayor's bedroom in August 2015.

An unnamed 18-year-old female told the investigator that all the participants in the game were naked at some point. She also said beer and vodka were present at the camp that hosts 75 children, according to the affidavit.

Silva posted $20,000 bail and was released from jail a few hours after his arrest.

The charges stem from an FBI search of his cellphone last year, after he was stopped briefly at San Francisco International Airport by authorities who confiscated his laptop and cellphone as part of an unspecified investigation.

The FBI turned over contents of the cellphone to Amador County on July 26.

The contents included nearly two dozen photographs of people who appeared to be under 21 in possession of alcohol or near alcohol, said Amador County District Attorney Todd Riebe.

Riebe said one of four video recordings found on Silva's cellphone was of the strip poker game. The video contains mostly audio after players in the room said they didn't want to be video recorded, Riebe said.

Silva, a Republican, is running for re-election to lead the city of 300,000 people in the Central Valley. His opponent, Michael Tubbs, received more votes in the primary election and is endorsed by the police officers union.

Last year, Stockton emerged from bankruptcy protection by designing a plan to eliminate more than $2 billion in long-term debt payments without touching the city's pension obligations.

Stockton filed for Chapter 9 protection in 2012, making it the nation's largest bankrupt city before Detroit filed for that status in 2013.