By Curtis Skinner
SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) – The mayor of Stockton, California, who faces charges stemming from a strip poker game that he is accused of initiating at a summer camp he hosts for underprivileged youth, on Friday said he is innocent of criminal wrongdoing.
Anthony Ray Silva, 41, at a brief news conference the day after his arrest, denied furnishing anyone with alcohol or doing anything to endanger a child, insisting that everyone present during the incident was at least 18 years old.
He referred to the gathering in question last year as a “party” for camp counselors.
Silva’s lawyer, Mark Reichel, told Reuters the mayor had no intention of resigning and would defend himself in court.
Silva, a Republican who was elected mayor in 2012, was arrested by FBI agents on Thursday at the summer camp, which Stockton leases from the U.S. Forest Service in the Sierra mountains. Stockton is located about 80 miles northeast of San Francisco. Silva was released on $20,000 bail later in the day.
He was accused of playing strip poker with several young people, including a 16-year-old boy, inside the mayor’s camp cabin, and serving alcohol to at least six individuals under the legal drinking age of 21.
Prosecutors said Silva used his cellphone to make an audio recording of the game without the consent of others. The recording was seized as evidence by investigators and became the basis of a felony eavesdropping charge against Silva.
Speaking to reporters on Friday, Silva said he wanted to make three points.
“No. 1, everyone there was 18 years old. No. 2, I never ever, ever, ever endangered a child. Ever. No. 3, I never provided alcohol to anyone. And I certainly did not secretly record anyone. I am innocent,” Silva said.
He declined to take questions.
Silva also is charged with three misdemeanors: contributing to the delinquency of a minor, child endangerment and supplying alcoholic beverages to underage persons. If convicted, he could face up to three years in prison. His arraignment is set for Aug. 18.
Reichel has suggested the case was part of a politically motivated attempt to discredit the mayor.
It came days after local prosecutors issued a statement accusing Silva of failing to cooperate in their investigation of the fatal February 2015 shooting of a 13-old boy with a handgun that turned out to be a weapon the mayor later reported stolen from his home.
Silva is not charged in that case.
“I was a victim of theft,” Silva said on Friday, adding he let police know when the gun initially went missing and formally reported it stolen once it was clear the weapon was not merely misplaced.
(Writing and additional reporting by Steve Gorman in Los Angeles; Editing by Will Dunham and Leslie Adler)