By Steve Gorman
(Reuters) – The mayor of Stockton, California, was arrested on Thursday on a felony eavesdropping charge stemming from a strip poker game he is accused of surreptitiously recording at a summer camp he hosts for disadvantaged inner-city children, prosecutors said.
Mayor Anthony Ray Silva, 41, was also charged with three misdemeanor counts – contributing to the delinquency of a minor, child endangerment and furnishing alcoholic beverages to individuals under the legal drinking age of 21, according to a criminal complaint filed in court.
Silva is accused of using his cellphone to make an audio recording of conversation among several young people, including a 16-year-old boy, who were playing strip poker with the mayor inside his cabin at the camp.
Prosecutors said in a media statement it was evident that the participants, who were naked, were recorded against their will. Amador County District Attorney Todd Riebe said those present besides the mayor included two to three females and three males, all ranging in age from 18 to 20.
The criminal complaint further accuses Silva of supplying alcohol to six underage youths. Prosecutors said some were camp counselors.
The incidents, according to prosecutors, took place last August at the Stockton Silver Lake Camp in Amador County, which lies in California Gold Country on the edge of the Sierras northeast of Stockton.
In addition to hosting unprivileged children at the city-leased camp each summer, Silva has served as president of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Stockton for the past six years.
Silva’s lawyer, Mark Reichel, told Reuters his client “will be vindicated” and suggested the case was politically motivated, noting that the mayor, a Republican, faces a tough election run-off in November against a Democratic city councilman.
Asked whether Silva was playing strip poker with youths from his camp, Reichel replied, “I highly doubt it.” Reichel added, “I can’t wait to fight them in court, so we can expose the epidemic of kids at summer camp playing strip poker.”
Silva was elected mayor of Stockton, a city of about 300,000 east of San Francisco, in November 2012, months after the municipality filed for bankruptcy. The city emerged from bankruptcy protection in February 2015.
Silva, who is not married, was arrested by FBI agents Thursday morning at the camp and released on $20,000 bond later in the day.
His next court date is Aug. 18. If convicted of the charges, he could face up to three years in prison.
(Reporting by Steve Gorman; Editing by Tom Brown, Bill Rigby and Bernard Orr)