Former top prosecutor says MCAO issues might go beyond botched misdemeanors
Mar 15, 2022, 2:45 PM
PHOENIX – Rick Romley, who spent 16 years as Maricopa County’s top prosecutor, said that his former agency’s issues with filing criminal cases might be worse than what was made public this week.
“I’ve been hearing that there’s some additional problems that are occurring on getting some of the cases filed in a timely manner,” Romley told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Mike Broomhead Show on Tuesday, a day after the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office acknowledge it failed to file charges in roughly 180 misdemeanor cases before their one-year statute of limitations expired.
Romley said he’s heard from inside MCAO about a backlog of felony cases where arrests haven’t yet been made. They are known as “basket cases” and don’t have to be handled as urgently as cases with arrests, but Romley said he was alarmed that so many were piling up.
“These are cases that you have a little bit more time to review them,” he said. “And I am hearing that those cases are amounting into potentially thousands that haven’t been filed on in a timely manner.
“And that’s really a major concern on my part.”
Romley said he can no longer stand behind Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel, whom he endorsed in her 2020 campaign to retain the position she was appointed to in 2019.
“These cases have to be handled in a timely manner. The public has to have trust that the office is going to do its job, and that’s my concern,” he said.
“In the end, as much as I like Allister, in the end the public depends on that office too much. That’s where I’m coming out.”
Romley said caseloads are always a challenge for MCAO, which he led from 1989 to 2005, but couldn’t fathom how the agency could fail to act in time on so many misdemeanor cases, which can be processed relatively quickly.
He said staffing shortages don’t explain the agency’s failures.
“Quite frankly, there’s just a lack of oversight by management. That’s really what it takes,” he said.
“The managers have to be on top of their game, and unfortunately they slipped through the cracks and now we have nearly 200 cases that can’t be filed upon.”