Stockton mayor forcefully declares innocence following arrest

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

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

"I'm innocent and I appreciate your patience," said Stockton mayor Anthony Silva, one day after his arrest at a camp he runs for kids in the sierra foothills
RELATED: Stockton mayor allegedly gave minors alcohol at summer camp

Silva addressed charges that he played an alcohol-fueled game of strip poker last summer with a group of teenage counselors, including a 16-year-old boy.

"Everyone there was 18 years old. Number 2: I never, ever, ever, ever endangered a child. Ever. Number 3: I never provided alcohol to anyone. And I certainly did not secretly record anyone," said Silva.

Silva wouldn't take questions, nor would he address a court transcript of an audio recording Amador county prosecutors say Silva made with his cell phone.

On it, the teenagers are talking with Silva. They refer to drinking alcohol and to not having any clothes on, saying at various times: "If I'm going to be naked," "Not until you get naked," "Once you're all naked."

Silva and his supporters claim his arrest is part of a larger conspiracy to defeat his re-election campaign.

"For those of you who have been missing your episodes of House of Cards, Scandal or Game of Thrones, then I'm sure you've been following Stockton politics the last week," said Silva.

A group of Stockton residents listened to what their mayor had to say.

"Even if he is innocent, he needs to resign because he's not going to be able to serve as mayor and be on trial for a felony at the same time," said Jacob Tyler, a Stockton resident.

As he left, Silva refused to answer questions about whether he plans to resign.

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. Silva is also accused of previously not reporting that a gun was stolen from his home until a month after it was used in the killing of a 13-year-old Stockton boy early last year.

Meanwhile, a police union has called for the resignation of a California mayor 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 Stockton Mayor Anthony 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 emerged after the financially stressed city emerged from bankruptcy protection last year.

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.

Attorneys for Silva said he had nothing to do with the killing and was the victim of a crime.

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 this fall 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.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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