On the morning of Oct. 3, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema gave her students in an advanced fundraising class at Arizona State University a break. She stepped out of the classroom to go move her car to another location near the downtown Phoenix campus, but instead found a group of four activists waiting to talk to her.
As the four organizers recorded the confrontation on their phone, Sinema didn’t stop to listen to the activists, some of whom had shown up to her Phoenix office months earlier to ask to meet with her. Sinema ignored them and, instead of going to move her car as planned, she made her way to a nearby bathroom.
The move was intentional and calculated: Sinema told ASU police she intentionally went into the bathroom because she believed that recording someone inside a bathroom is a crime, Sgt. Katie Fuchtman wrote in a police report the Arizona Mirror obtained under the state’s public records law. The senator’s comments in it have not been reported on before now.
One of the activists, whose identity police couldn’t confirm, is an organizer with Living United for Change Arizona, a community organization that has mobilized working class and majority-Latino neighborhoods to vote. She told Sinema her name is Blanca in the video she filmed at the entrance of the bathroom. The video went viral. Some condemned the LUCHA organizers for recording the Democratic U.S. senator inside the bathroom. Others claimed Blanca should be deported.
After the incident, Sinema told police officers that she believed the activists had committed a crime by breaking a state law that bars surreptitious filming — the law she said prompted her to seek refuge in the bathroom. That law applies in cases where the victim is filmed while “urinating, defecating, dressing, undressing, nude” or engaged in a sexual act.
After an investigation, ASU police said they disagreed with Sinema. The agency announced on Oct. 20 that it recommended Maricopa County Attorney’s Office prosecutors charge four people with misdemeanors, but not for the felony of recording a person in a bathroom that Sinema told officers the activists committed and should be “held accountable” for.
But prosecutors returned the investigation back to police and requested more information on the case. ASU police are still investigating the case, ASU PD spokesman Adam Wolfe said on Jan. 11.
Three months after the incident, Sinema still believes the activists committed a crime, her office told the Mirror in an email.
If police or prosecutors were to agree with Sinema, Blanca, who has no immigration status, could face deportation.