Lawmakers want revenge-porn investigation into Ugenti-Rita's fiance

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Rep. Anthony Kern, Glendale. Feb. 2, 2018 (Source: 3TV/CBS 5 News) Rep. Anthony Kern, Glendale. Feb. 2, 2018 (Source: 3TV/CBS 5 News)
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -

Multiple state lawmakers are now pushing for an investigation into the fiance of Rep. Michele Ugenti-Rita for allegedly violating the state's revenge-porn law.

The allegation stems from the 82-page sexual harassment investigation that brought down the once powerful Rep. Don Shooter this week.

Brian Townsend, a former legislative staff member and lobbyist, told investigators that he sent "sexually explicit communications" to "hurt and humiliate (Ugenti-Rita)."

Investigators were looking into accusations made by Shooter that Ugenti-Rita and Townsend sent explicit messages to people identified in the report only as "Interviewee 2 and "Interviewee 3."

Had Ugenti-Rita participated in sending explicit messages, she would have been in a tough spot.

She was the first woman to publicly accuse Shooter of harassment.

[RELATED:Powerful lawmaker accused of sexual harassment at AZ State Capitol]

However, investigators cleared Ugenti-Rita of any wrong doing, concluding that, "Mr. Townsend acted alone and without Ms. Ugenti-Rita's knowledge or participation when committing the egregious and potentially unlawful acts."

Following the release of the report, Rep. Anthony Kern, a Republican from Glendale, said he wanted a separate investigation into the incident.

"I will be drafting a letter to the Attorney General and the Maricopa County Attorney in response to an alleged unwelcoming harassing and offensive communication by a Mr. Brian Townsend," Kern said Thursday on the House floor.

Kern's comments came as lawmakers were voting to expel Shooter from the House for sexual harassment and lewd behavior.

[RELATED:AZ House votes to expel Rep. Don Shooter]

[RELATED:Gun removed from Don Shooter's office before expulsion vote]

On Friday, Rep. Maria Syms, a Republican from Paradise Valley, voiced her support for a separate investigation into Townsend, who did not return calls for comment on Friday.

"Over the next week or so, I think a number of us are going to have questions and may sit down with the investigator to get some clarification on those things," Syms said. 

A spokesman for the Attorney General's office said they are aware of the allegations made in the sexual harassment report but have not yet received a letter from Kern.

The state's revenge-porn law says it's illegal to distribute nude or sexual images on someone without permission and is a class 4 felony carrying a maximum sentence of nearly 9 years in prison.

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Dennis WlechVeteran political reporter Dennis Welch is a well-respected political expert in Arizona.

Dennis Welch
Political Editor

Before making the move to television, Welch wrote and edited for the Arizona Guardian, a highly influential online news site dedicated to Arizona politics and government where he served as owner and editor. During his Guardian days, Welch was a frequent guest on “Politics Unplugged” and has been a regular fixture on the state political landscape since 2005 appearing on numerous radio and television talk shows. “I am thrilled to start working with such a talented and dedicated staff of journalists,” said Welch. “This is a great opportunity to broaden the reach of my political coverage and tell stories that affect Arizona voters and their families.” With more than 13 years of experience under his belt, Welch’s arrival only strengthens 3TV’s commitment to providing first-rate political and government coverage across all platforms. When not covering politics, Welch is an avid runner and fronts a punk rock band that plays frequently throughout the Southwest and California. Welch is a well-respected political expert in Arizona and his addition means 3TV will provide a stronger, more robust political presence in Arizona. He joins 3TV from the Arizona Guardian, a highly influential online news site dedicated to Arizona politics and government where he served as owner and editor. During his Guardian days, Welch was a frequent guest on “Politics Unplugged” and has been a regular fixture on the state political landscape since 2005 appearing on numerous radio and television talk shows. “I am thrilled to start working with such a talented and dedicated staff of journalists,” said Welch. “This is a great opportunity to broaden the reach of my political coverage and tell stories that affect Arizona voters and their families.” With more than 13 years of experience under his belt, Welch’s arrival only strengthens 3TV’s commitment to providing first-rate political and government coverage across all platforms. When not covering politics, Welch is an avid runner and fronts a punk rock band that plays frequently throughout the Southwest and California.

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