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Maricopa County’s Adel announces review of protesters with gang charges

Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel (AP File Photo)

PHOENIX — Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel announced Monday an outside review will take place of cases charging protesters as members of a criminal street gang.

The review follows prosecutors previously “in the interest of justice” moving to dismiss the charges against 16 people accused of crimes that included assisting or participating in a criminal street gang after being arrested at an Oct. 17 protest against police brutality in downtown Phoenix.

Prosecutors requested dismissal without prejudice, which would allow charges to be refiled.

Adel is retaining retired Superior Court Judge Roland Steinle to provide an outside review of the events surrounding the charges, and the procedures in place when making charging decisions in cases of community interest or those that have possible impacts to policy.

“As County Attorney, I am committed to ensuring that this office adheres to the highest standards,” Adel said in a statement. “Procedures are in place to help ensure these standards are reflected in the more than 30,000 cases we file each year. I understand that each case impacts a community of individuals, including the defendant, victims, family members, employers, and others.

“In this particular matter, I believe that we could have done better to meet these standards.”

The review follows investigative reports by ABC 15 on the gang charges and circumstances related to the handling of other protests.

The Arizona gang law allegedly violated by the protesters includes indicators such as wearing of uniforms and proclaiming gang membership, according to the report by ABC 15, and police contended the protesters met those criteria by wearing black clothes, carrying umbrellas and chanting a slogan critical of police.

A police sergeant and a prosecutor compared the protesters to gangs such as the Crips, Bloods and Hell’s Angels, according to ABC 15.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Arizona and others said the charges against the protesters were an abusive political prosecution intended to silence dissent and scare protesters.

Adel has also asked Steinle to provide recommendations to improve processes of the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office and review if there was any possible ethical violations related to the prosecution of the protestors’ cases.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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