MCAO intends to terminate veteran prosecutor accused of overcharging suspects

Jun 16, 2022, 4:45 AM
(KTAR News Photo)...
(KTAR News Photo)
(KTAR News Photo)

PHOENIX — The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office plans to terminate a veteran prosecutor accused of overcharging suspects, including protestors in Phoenix during a notorious case from 2020.

MCAO laid out several cases in which April Sponsel submitted charges that were not appropriate, according to a dismissal letter sent June 6 by Chief Deputy Paul Ahler.

The county attorney’s office cited five cases since 2020, calling Sponsel’s actions a “disturbing pattern of excessive charging.”

The protest case referenced is from Oct. 17, 2020, in which 15 people were indicted on bogus gang charges.

One suspect in the cases, which were eventually dropped, was “unquestionably innocent of any wrongdoing,” according to the letter.

MCAO said Sponsel erred in not reviewing all available evidence.

“Based on your extreme overcharging and lack of appropriate follow-up and review in the cases discussed above, I cannot trust that you are able to do the work of a Prosecutor IV,” Ahler said.

“The fact that your administrative interview demonstrated no self-reflection or any recognition that you made mistakes, even knowing that you indicted an innocent person, reaffirms my decision that termination is the only appropriate option.”

The investigation into Sponsel’s conduct began in March 2021 when she was placed on administrative leave.

Sponsel told ABC15 she believed she was being painted as a “scapegoat in order to blunt the criticism” from other top MCAO officials, including then-County Attorney Allister Adel, over the protest cases.

“I agree. They scapegoated her,” said Marci Kratter, a defense attorney who’s spent years and many cases opposite of Sponsel, told ABC15.

“They bred this monster. They taught her how to do it. They nourished her on it. They encouraged it. They allowed it. And then, they threw her under the bus when they get caught.”

MCAO said Sponsel’s pattern of overcharging didn’t end with the protest cases.

Sponsel was alleged to have not brought forth proper charges in the other cases referenced in the letter.

One was a February 2021 case in which a man who yelled and threatened officers at a shooting scene was charged with felonies MCAO said would not end in a guilty verdict.

Another was a June 2020 case where a suspect who got into a physical struggle with a police officer was charged with “intentionally, knowing or recklessly” injuring the officer with a pen.

The suspect, who had no prior convictions, was charged with a Class 2 felony — one that’s handed down when a suspect shoots or stabs an officer with a knife — despite the officer receiving no medical attention.

Sponsel has a meeting to respond to the allegations set for next week.

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

(AP Photo/Reba Saldanha, File)...

Arizona politicians react to indictment of former President Donald Trump

Arizona politicians were quick to speak on the unprecedented news of Donald Trump's indictment, with reactions split along party lines.
17 hours ago
(Google Maps Screenshot)...
Taylor Kinnerup

Arizona’s News Roundup: Phoenix business owners win homelessness suit, Hobbs’ staffer resigns

KTAR’s Arizona’s News Roundup this week catches you up on homeless encampment updates, a change in the governor's office and more.
17 hours ago
(Mesa Police Department Photo)...

Teacher’s aide in Mesa arrested for allegedly sexual abusing 9-year-old girl

A teacher's aide at a Mesa elementary school was arrested for allegedly sexual abusing a 9-year-old girl multiple times on campus.
17 hours ago
(Screenshot/Phoenix Union High School District YouTube)...
SuElen Rivera

Phoenix Union Superintendent Gestson leaving after 8 years at helm

The superintendent of the Valley's largest public high school district is leaving after eight years for a university-level position.
17 hours ago
(AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)...

Report: Arizona Jan. 6 rioter ‘QAnon Shaman’ released from prison

Arizona's horned Jan. 6 rioter Jacob Chansley, also known as "QAnon Shaman," has been released from federal prison.
17 hours ago
Follow @KTAR923...

Ripley’s Believe It or Not! makes return to Scottsdale’s Arizona Boardwalk

Fans of bizarre, unbelievable items may be happy to hear Ripley's Believe It or Not! has made its return to Arizona Boardwalk in Scottsdale. 
17 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

Fiesta Bowl Foundation

Celebrate 50 years of Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade magic!

Since its first production in the early 1970s, the Vrbo Fiesta Bowl Parade presented by Lerner & Rowe has been a staple of Valley traditions, bringing family fun and excitement to downtown Phoenix.
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Prep the plumbing in your home just in time for the holidays

With the holidays approaching, it's important to know when your home is in need of heating and plumbing updates before more guests start to come around.
(Photo via MLB's Arizona Fall League / Twitter)...
Arizona Fall League

Top prospects to watch at this year’s Arizona Fall League

One of the most exciting elements of the MLB offseason is the Arizona Fall League, which began its 30th season Monday.
MCAO intends to terminate veteran prosecutor accused of overcharging suspects