Mayor of Racine, Wis., resigns after sex sting

Mayor Arrested
Gary Becker walks into court last Thursday behind his attorney in Racine, Wis.Scott Anderson / AP
/ Source: The Associated Press

The mayor of Racine, Wis., resigned on Tuesday, days after being accused of trying to arrange a sexual encounter with someone he thought was an underage girl.

Mayor Gary Becker resigned, effective 5 p.m. Tuesday, in a one-sentence letter that made no reference to the six felonies he faces.

His attorney, Patrick Cafferty, said Becker decided to resign because "it was in the best interest of everyone involved." He said his client intends to plead not guilty to all charges during a Feb. 10 arraignment in Racine County Circuit Court.

The City Council had planned to meet Tuesday night to begin the process of removing Becker from office in Racine, about 20 miles south of Milwaukee. Instead, the council's president, David Maack, said it will meet soon to decide whether to hold a special election or appoint someone to serve as mayor for the roughly two years left in Becker's term.

"I think it will allow us to move forward as a city and a council. We won't have this whole removal process hanging over our heads," said Maack, who had called for Becker's resignation.

Becker, 51, was arrested Jan. 13 at a suburban Milwaukee mall following a two-week investigation by the state Department of Justice's Division of Criminal Investigation. After chatting online with a state agent posing as a 14-year-old girl, Becker went to the mall to meet the girl and buy lingerie for her, according to a criminal complaint.

During the chat, he offered to take her to a hotel to "have lots of fun," the complaint said.

The investigation started last month after Becker asked city workers to help him fix a problem with his personal computer. Police said the computer technician found six pornographic images of what appeared to be underage females and alerted authorities. Police passed the case on to state investigators to avoid a conflict of interest.

Investigators who searched Becker's computer found records of 1,800 sexually explicit chats, District Attorney Michael Nieskes said.

Becker, who is married and has two children, is charged with attempted second-degree sexual assault of a child under 16, possession of child pornography, child enticement, use of a computer to facilitate a child sex crime, attempt exposing a child to harmful material and misconduct in office. The charges carry a maximum penalty of more than 114 years in prison and $370,000 in fines.