Arizona Gov. Ducey calls for MCAO accountability after cases dropped: ‘Unacceptable’
PHOENIX – Gov. Doug Ducey called for accountability from Maricopa County Attorney’s Office leadership after nearly 200 criminal cases had to be dropped because charges weren’t filed on time, but he wouldn’t say the agency’s top official should step down.
“This issue’s really unacceptable,” Ducey told reporters Tuesday after an unrelated event in Phoenix. “The police officers that put their life on the line every day and the victims of these crimes deserve justice.”
MCAO, which is responsible for prosecuting crimes in metro Phoenix, confirmed Monday that it failed to file charges in roughly 180 misdemeanor cases from 2020 before the one-year statute of limitations expired.
The Arizona Republic reported that the dropped cases included drunken driving, domestic violence, assault and criminal damage incidents and primarily came from the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office and Arizona Department of Public Safety.
While stopping short of calling for County Attorney Allister Adel to resign over the latest scandal to plague her tenure, Ducey said, “I think leaders should take accountability for their actions and not blame people on their team.” Ducey and Adel are both Republicans.
While critical of leadership, Ducey lauded MCAO’s line-level prosecutors, calling them “the unsung heroes of our criminal justice system.”
In an statement to KTAR News 92.3 FM on Monday, Sheriff Paul Penzone said he and DPS Director Col. Heston Silbert thought MCAO’s lapses were inexcusable.
“The colonel and I recognize the difficulties in managing complex organizations and the corresponding challenges, but we found nothing to mitigate or exonerate the breadth of this deficiency,” Penzone said.
Last month, following reports that Adel hadn’t been coming to work regularly, five MCAO criminal division chiefs called for her to resign amid ongoing concerns she was unable to run the office while dealing with alcoholism and other health problems.
Prior to Adel taking a leave of absence in August and September of last year to seek treatment for alcohol abuse and an eating disorder, her agency was under scrutiny for filing trumped-up charges against 15 people arrested at an October 2020 Black Lives Matter protest in downtown Phoenix.
The agency withdrew all the charges, which painted the protestors as gang members, in June 2021 after a judge dismissed the cases and said prosecutors and police had engaged in “egregious misconduct.”
KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Griselda Zetino contributed to this report.