back to top

California Mayor Denies He Secretly Recorded Underage Strip Poker Game At Summer Camp

Federal agents found 23 photos and four videos in the cell phone of the Stockton mayor, who hosts a summer camp for disadvantaged kids every year.

Originally posted on
Updated on

A Northern California mayor is facing allegations he secretly recorded a strip poker game during a summer camp for disadvantaged kids, with at least one of the players being a teenager.

Speaking Friday about his arrest, Stockton Mayor Anthony Silva denied the charges, and said the allegations from the district attorney's office were politically motivated.

"I also found the timing of the release of this report calculated," Silva said. "For the past week I have been raked over the coals by the media because I owned a gun and reported it stolen."

Silva has been mired in controversy as he faces an election this year. After his arrest Thursday, the Stockton District Attorney also criticized the mayor of not cooperating in another unrelated investigation of the killing of a 13-year-old boy last year.

According to the San Jose Mercury News, prosecutors said Silva — who has not been connected to the killing — has not been cooperating in their inquiry after they discovered the mayor's stolen gun was used in the killing.

Silva denied the allegation.

The mayor said he couldn't speak much about the charges filed against him regarding the video taken at a summer camp, but that everyone who was in the recording of what appeared to be strip poker game was at least 18 years old, and that he never endangered a child.

Prosecutors allege at least one of the participants was 16 years old.

Silva was charged Wednesday in Amador County, but the investigation appears to have been sparked by federal officials, who had been investigating him since September 2015, when they seized his phone at an airport as he returned from a trip to China, officials told BuzzFeed News.

In the phone, officials found four videos and 23 photos taken from the Stockton Silver Lake Camp between Aug. 3 and Aug. 9, 2015. During that time, prosecutors allege Silva recorded a darkened video of what appeared to be a strip poker game in his bedroom at the camp, including a 16-year-old male.

The cell phone that recorded the video appeared to have been placed down and recorded only audio, but officials said the conversation heard indicated the participants were naked and did not want to be recorded, according to the statement.

Amador County District Attorney Todd Riebe told BuzzFeed News that although the video did appear to be sexual in nature, prosecutors have not filed any sex charges connected to the case.

"We don't think it's applicable in the facts," he said. "Certainly it's of a sexual nature, but we're not filing any sex charge."

Silva's attorney, Mark Reichel, told BuzzFeed News his client planned to fight the charges, and to continue his run for reelection.

He also criticized the resources spent on the investigation, pointing out that officials had possession of the phone for about a year but did not file charges until now.

"For one year, the FBI and all the forces of the crown, which is the federal government, was utilized," he said. "After all of that they came up with a thing that deals with strip poker at a summer camp."

Reichel said most of the people involved in the poker game were of age.

Asked about the 16-year-old who was also involved, he said: "I have no reason to believe my client was involved in committing any crime."

He also blasted officials for how the investigation was performed, and alleged Silva's cell phone and two laptops were illegally seized by Homeland Security agents in Sept. 2015 at the airport without a warrant.

A couple of days after the devices were taken, Silva filed a federal lawsuit asking them to be returned. The case was dismissed when they were returned to Silva, Reichel said, but it is evident that the contents were copied before they were handed over.

"I've never been aware of a strip poker game that justified federal resources," he said.

Riebe would not go into detail as to what the other images and videos contained, but he said at least some of the images appeared to have shown minors and underage people playing beer pong at the camp.

Authorities have contacted all of the individuals in the pictures and video, the district attorney said.

Silva was charged with a felony count of recording confidential communication, and misdemeanor charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor and furnishing alcohol to someone under age 21.

Silva was taken into custody Wednesday at the camp near Silver Lake, where he had returned for the annual trip this year. He was released after posting $20,000 bond.

His Facebook page was filled with pictures and videos of children participating in the camp, including kayaking and playing on an inflatable slide.

Riebe said the Amador County District Attorney's office did not participate in the investigation of the case, but was handed the evidence by the FBI, which has been conducting the investigation with the San Joaquin County District Attorney's office.

Prosecutors filed a search warrant a few days ago regarding the case, but Riebe said he could not comment on it because it was filed under seal.

The FBI declined to comment on the case.

Salvador Hernandez is a reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Los Angeles.

Contact Salvador Hernandez at salvador.hernandez@buzzfeed.com.

Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.