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Former lawmaker sentenced to one year in prison for sexually abusing a minor

A former state senator was sentenced to a year in prison Friday for sexually abusing a young relative. 

Democrat Otoniel “Tony” Navarrete was indicted in 2021, charged with several crimes against two of his nephews. 

He resigned from the Senate shortly after the indictment and went to trial last year. 

That first trial ended with a hung jury. On retrial, Navarrete was convicted of one felony; sexual conduct with a minor. 

He must now register as a sex offender and is not allowed to contact his victim. 

State prosecutors argued Navarrete should spend his life in prison, but he received the maximum sentence for his one felony conviction: one year in prison. Even at his sentencing, Navarrete maintained his innocence.

Judge Kristin Culbertson initially offered Navarrete 60 days in prison with 10 years of supervised probation, but he rejected that. 

“It’s an easy decision,” Navarrete’s attorney, Adam Feldman, said. On probation with sex offender terms, the felon must go to counseling and cooperate and say what they’ve done. But for Navarrete, he would violate the terms of his probation because he refuses to concede, and the court would send him to prison anyway. 

“It’s like, ‘Do I take the installment plan of jail and then effectively finish out in prison?’ or, knowing what I know, I didn’t do it, if I’m going to jail anyways, I have to move forward,’” Feldman said.

Four people testified on Navarrete’s account, telling the judge he’s innocent and should get the opportunity to continue serving his community.

His victim did not comment during sentencing, but was present virtually.

Navarrete was taken into custody after sentencing and brought directly to jail. He remained stoic throughout the proceedings and will be transferred to a prison in a few days.

The prosecutors said that he should be spending his life in prison, but one year is the maximum sentence for the single crime. 

Feldman noted that he’s already filed a notice of appeal and that Navarrete can get out on early release in roughly seven months.

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Camryn Sanchez is a field correspondent at KJZZ covering everything to do with state politics.