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Maricopa County Attorney's Office Newsletter - Justice for All
Maricopa County Attorney’s Office • October 2013 Newsletter

From the Desk of Bill Montgomery

It is a shocking statistic: one in four Arizona women will experience domestic violence during their lifetime. As we recognize National Domestic Violence Awareness month this October, we provide an update in this month’s issue of our newsletter on a program my office created that has dramatically improved our ability to hold accountable abusers suspected of strangulation.

I am pleased to report that our Friday Night Football Patrol reached a significant milestone this month: 10,000 teens have now “taken the pledge” to stay drug and alcohol free, a credit to the hard work of our Patrol volunteers who visit local high school football games throughout the Valley. Patrol members not only encourage teens to sign the pledge, they also educate parents on how to talk to their children about substance abuse.

There is another milestone we reached this month, one that is no cause for celebration. The number of Officer Involved Shootings so far this year is equal to the total number for 2012 reflecting a disturbing willingness of some to threaten law enforcement officers and deputies. In this issue, we take a look at the role the County Attorney’s Office plays in investigating these incidents. We also feature several prosecutors who’ve recently been recognized for the work they do on behalf of the citizens of Maricopa County.

Finally, with the arrival of cooler weather, we’ll be kicking off another season of Shred-A-Thons where members of the public can safely destroy documents with personal identifying information and dispose of left-over prescription medication for free. See our calendar events at MaricopaCountyAttorney.org for dates and locations.

Until next time,

Bill Montgomery, Maricopa County Attorney

  In This Issue

     

Putting a STOP to Domestic Violence Strangulations

Officer Involved Shootings

MCAO Auto Theft Bureau Earns Important Statewide Recognition

MADD Prosecutor of the Year: Aaron Harder

Special Honors for MCAO’s Friday Night Football Patrol

October is Red Ribbon Month

Upcoming Events Calendar

Justice Files


Shred-A-Thon Season Begins
Our job is to ensure the guilty do not escape justice and innocence does not suffer.

Putting a STOP to Domestic Violence Strangulations

  A Forensic Nurse Examiner uses a specialized camera to document evidence of strangulation
A Forensic Nurse Examiner uses a specialized camera to document evidence of strangulation

One in four women in Arizona will experience domestic violence sometime during their lifetime. Typically, only a handful of these incidents will be reported to police, and even fewer will be prosecuted. But in Maricopa County there is some good news for victims of some of the worst domestic violence incidents – those involving strangulation.

Allegations of strangulation are notoriously difficult to prove. The frequent lack of physical evidence, lateness in reporting, unwillingness of victims to testify, and “he-said/she-said” nature of many of these incidents are just some of the challenges prosecutors often face in trying to assemble a case. But thanks to the MCAO’s Strangulation Treatment and Offender Prosecution program (STOP), new forensic examination techniques and investigatory protocols are leading to more prosecutions and a greater ability to hold perpetrators accountable.

After a successful pilot project in 2011 by the County Attorney’s Office, Scottsdale Healthcare and the Glendale and Chandler police departments, STOP is currently in full implementation throughout Maricopa County. When police respond to a domestic violence call involving an allegation of strangulation, they transport the victim immediately to a family advocacy center or health care facility where a Forensic Nurse Examiner performs a specialized examination to collect physical evidence like the abuser’s DNA. They also use advanced photographic techniques to document hard-to-spot signs of strangulation, like tiny pinpoints of subdural bleeding known as petechiae, which frequently appear on the ears, lips, and eyeballs of strangulation victims.

Forensic Nurse Examiners are also able to testify as expert witnesses in court, allowing cases to proceed even when a victim is unavailable. Before launching STOP, the County Attorney’s Office was able to file charges in only ten percent of the strangulation cases submitted for review. Today, nearly two years after implementing STOP, the filing rate has jumped to 60 percent. Many of these cases have resulted in sentences for abusers ranging from probation to seven years in prison. Few have gone to trial.

Earlier this year, the National Association of Counties recognized the STOP program with an Achievement Award in the category of Criminal Justice and Public Safety. “The STOP program has been so successful in holding these types of offenders accountable that we are now getting training requests from outside the County and outside the state,” said Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery. “Our multi-disciplinary approach to investigating and prosecuting these crimes is a model other agencies can follow to deter and prevent this type of abuse.”

Research shows that women who experience strangulation are seven times more likely to become victims of homicide. This year, as the nation recognizes Domestic Violence Awareness Month, prosecutors in Maricopa County can point to a new approach for handling strangulation cases that promises to prevent some of these deaths.

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Officer Involved Shootings

OIS Numbers On Track to Exceed Last Year’s Level

  MCAO Law Enforcement Liaison Keith Manning at the scene of a recent officer involved shooting
MCAO Law Enforcement Liaison Keith Manning at the scene of a recent officer involved shooting

Arizona law allows a police officer to use deadly force against a suspect in certain circumstances. It is perhaps the most difficult decision an officer will ever make – and it is one that the County Attorney’s Office is responsible for reviewing after the fact to determine if the officer’s use of force was lawful.

The number of officer involved shootings is likely to exceed last year’s level, not just in Maricopa County but nationwide. As of mid-September 2013 the MCAO has responded to 48 officer involved shootings, equaling the number seen for all of 2012.

“We are seeing an increasing willingness among suspects to use weapons and threaten force against police officers,” Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said recently in a news conference. “My concern is for the safety of officers involved as well as the safety of citizens in the vicinity of these incidents.”

Deputy Maricopa County Attorney Keith Manning, the MCAO’s Law Enforcement Liaison, is tasked with responding to the scene of all officer involved shootings that occur within the County’s jurisdiction. He also sits on a committee of senior prosecutors within the office that conducts a thorough review and legal analysis of every incident.

“These reviews are important as we want to ensure public confidence and make sure that these shootings are reviewed in detail to determine if they were lawful,” Manning says. “In years gone by the committee met once a month. We now meet twice a month as these officer involved shootings are taking place at a rate of nearly one a week.”

DCA Manning does a walk through at every scene with the on-scene commander and lead detective from the law enforcement agency involved in the incident. This allows him to see all the relevant evidence in context before having to wait for photographs or a written report. Throughout this process, he plays the role of observer while the police agency processes the scene and conducts the actual investigation.

“I want to stress that we are not the investigating agency. We can ask questions but we don’t direct the investigation.”

Within a few hours Manning will take the information he’s gathered and brief County Attorney Bill Montgomery. Once an official report has been prepared by the agency, the Officer Involved Shooting Committee will review the information and make a recommendation to the County Attorney, who makes a final decision on whether the shooting was legally justified – or not.

“Our uniformed law enforcement personnel represent the most visible form of civil authority in our society. If someone threatens to kill a police officer, they certainly won’t hesitate to kill a private citizen,” Montgomery observed. “That’s why police have a degree of latitude in applying deadly force. But that’s also why it’s important that we ensure that their use of deadly force is lawful.”

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MCAO Auto Theft Bureau Earns Important Statewide Recognition

  Auto Theft Bureau including Support Staff
Auto Theft Bureau including support staff: Marion Cevette; Myrna Cardenas; Misty Fauth; Celeste Vanliere; Stefany Vara; Elsa Samano; Scott Blum; Noble Murphy; Robert Smith; Enrique Prado; Aida Hernandez; Edward Schoeler; Jeremy Miller

As we reported in our August issue, car thefts in Maricopa County have declined for the fifth consecutive year. Much of the credit for this decrease goes to the prosecutors in the County Attorney’s Auto Theft Bureau, a team of seven attorneys, three paralegals and eight support staff. Last month, the bureau was singled out for special recognition by the Arizona Auto Theft Authority (AATA), a partnership of law enforcement that supports efforts to deter auto theft through aggressive prosecution and public education programs.

Scott Blum, the Deputy County Attorney in charge of the Auto Theft Bureau, was named Bureau Chief of the Year by AATA. Scott has been with the Office for eleven years, the last four of those as Auto Theft Bureau Chief. In addition to supervising and mentoring attorneys, he maintains an active caseload prosecuting individual cases or serving as second chair to train new attorneys.

Two other prosecutors in the bureau, Robert Smith and Noble Murphy, were recognized as the 2012 Auto Theft Co-Prosecutors of the Year. Additionally, Robert, Noble and Bureau Chief Blum received the award for 2012 Auto Theft Vertical Prosecutors of the Year. In a vertical prosecution, a single prosecutor handles a specific case throughout each stage of the prosecution process, from initial investigation, to charging, to final disposition. (Horizontal prosecutions involve multiple different attorneys handling each separate stage of a case.)

J.D. Hough, Noble Murphy, Robert E.M. Smith, Dean Butler  
Left to right are:
J.D. Hough, Lieutenant, Arizona Auto Theft Authority
Noble Murphy, Deputy County Attorney, Auto Theft Bureau
Robert E.M. Smith, Deputy County Attorney, Auto Theft Bureau
Dean Butler, Executive Chairman of the Board, Arizona Auto Theft Authority

“I am proud of this well-deserved recognition for our Auto Theft Bureau and the success these prosecutors have had in holding criminals accountable and reducing vehicle theft in our community,” remarked Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery, who previously served as Auto Theft Bureau Chief.

In 2012 the Bureau reviewed 1,677 resulting in 23 felony trials and 747 plea agreements. The Bureau recently added a restitution clerk position to help speed the process of obtaining court-ordered restitution for victims. Since creating the position roughly three months ago, the Bureau has obtained more than $102,000 in restitution for victims. For all of 2012, victim restitution exceeded $702,000.

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MADD Prosecutor of the Year: Aaron Harder

  Jen Godbehere, Aaron Harder, Stan Marks
Standing with Aaron Harder (center) at the award presentation are Jen Godbehere (left), development director for MADD AZ and Stan Marks (right), attorney and founder of MADD AZ

Deputy County Attorney Aaron Harder has been named the 2013 Prosecuting Attorney of the Year by the Arizona Chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Harder, a ten-year veteran of the MCAO’s Vehicular Crimes Bureau and its current Bureau Chief, was recognized for his demonstrated dedication, perseverance and skill over many years and multiple prosecutions.

“Aaron is a visionary, a teacher and a mentor,” remarked Major Crimes II Division Chief Tony Novitsky. “He takes time to mold young attorneys into savvy and capable advocates. He also devotes substantial time to promoting traffic safety by regularly instructing courses for state and local police agencies,” Novitsky added.

Among the many significant and high profile cases Aaron Harder has prosecuted are the trial and retrial of Michael Jakscht, who drove a commercial truck into a group of motorcyclists at a stop light, killing four riders and seriously injuring five. In 2013 Harder prosecuted David Glenn Wiggins, who ran red light and killed an 11-year old boy. He also prosecuted Georgia Baker who drove through a red light and caused a DPS pursuit that resulted in the death of one of the officers.

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Special Honors for MCAO’s Friday Night Football Patrol

  Mesa Prevention Alliance Award

The Mesa Prevention Alliance recently recognized the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office with a special Leadership Award for the Friday Night Football Patrol program. Now in its third season, Patrol volunteers have encouraged over 10,000 teens at local high school football games to sign a pledge to stay drug and alcohol free and not abuse prescription drugs. The Patrol has also distributed information on teen substance abuse to hundreds of parents attending the games. For the past two seasons, members of the Mesa Prevention Alliance have joined the Friday Night Football Patrol at games in Mesa, helping the MCAO in its mission to raise awareness among teens about the dangers of substance abuse.

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October is Red Ribbon Month

  October is Red Ribbon Month for the MCAO

This year, October 23 – 31 is designated as Red Ribbon Week, a time to focus on raising awareness about the dangers of drug abuse. At the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, October is sometimes known as “Red Ribbon Month,” due to the large number of community requests for the programs and presentations we offer on substance abuse prevention.

Over the coming month, MCAO volunteers will visit schools across the Valley delivering more than 100 presentations to kids from kindergarten through 12th grade. In the younger grades the discussion will center on healthy habits while teens will talk about setting goals that will keep them drug free.

MCAO’s dedication to helping families is on multiple fronts. This fall you will find our Friday Night Football Patrol volunteers at high school football games encouraging teens to sign a drug free pledge. Parents can log onto our SafeTeensAZ.org website and order a “Handy Helpful Handbook” to get the latest information about how to talk with kids about staying drug free.

This October during “Red Ribbon Month” remind your kids, “You use, you lose!”

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Upcoming Events Calendar

Friday Night Football Patrol
Friday, October 4
6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Pinnacle High School
3535 East Mayo Boulevard
Phoenix, AZ 85050
Friday Night Football Patrol
Friday, October 11
6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Boulder Creek High School
40404 North Gavilan Peak Parkway
Anthem, AZ 85086
Shred-A-Thon/Rx Take-Back
Saturday, October 12
1:00 p.m. - 3:00 p.m.
Moon Valley Country Club
151 West Moon Valley Drive
Phoenix, AZ 85023
Friday Night Football Patrol
Friday, October 18
6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Millennium High School
14802 West Wigwam Boulevard
Goodyear, AZ 85395
Friday Night Football Patrol
Friday, October 25
6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Brophy College Preparatory
4701 North Central Avenue
Phoenix, AZ 85012
Friday Night Football Patrol
Friday, November 1
6:00 p.m. - 8:00 p.m.
Queen Creek High School
22149 East Ocotillo Road
Queen Creek, AZ 85142

Events are subject to change. Check MaricopaCountyAttorney.org to stay up to date with our events.

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Justice Files

John Chester Stuart Found Guilty in Road Rage Homicide

John Chester Stuart

Nearly six years after a road rage incident that escalated into a fatal shooting, a Maricopa County jury delivered guilty verdicts today against John Chester Stuart for one count each of Second Degree Murder and Drive By Shooting. A previous effort to prosecute Stuart resulted in a mistrial in November, 2011 after an earlier jury was unable to reach a verdict. He now faces a possible term of up to 43 years in the Arizona Department of Corrections.

“Although this defendant attempted to justify his actions by claiming self-defense, this jury was able to apply the important distinction Arizona law makes between the legitimate and illegitimate use of deadly force,” remarked Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery. “While nothing will ever fully assuage the grief felt by the victim’s family and friends for the loss of their loved one, today’s result at least provides a measure of justice for a senseless act of violence,” he added.
» View Full Story «

 
County Attorney Comments on Verdict in State vs. Chrisman

Richard Chrisman

Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery issued the following statement regarding today’s jury verdict in State of Arizona vs. Richard Chrisman:

First, I want to thank the members of the jury for their time and effort. Nevertheless, with the jury unable to reach a verdict on the counts charging Second Degree Murder and Animal Cruelty, we will assess the case and determine the most appropriate course of action. One possible course of action is to retry the remaining counts, which is permitted under our state and federal constitutions.
» View Full Story «

 
James Brian Kummer Receives 60 Years to Life for Violent Sexual Attack

James Brian Kummer

A violent sexual predator will likely spend the rest of his life behind bars for breaking into a woman’s apartment and violently attacking her in 2007. James Brian Kummer was sentenced by the Honorable Judge Warren Granville to a term of 35 years in the Arizona Department of Corrections followed by a life sentence with no possibility of release until he serves an additional 25 years.

“This sentence not only holds a dangerous criminal fully accountable for the harm he has inflicted, it also ensures he will never have an opportunity to victimize other members of our community,” said Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery. “Our ability to incarcerate this defendant for an appropriately long period of time is a validation of Arizona’s sentencing laws, which impose stronger punishments on defendants with multiple felony offenses,” he added.
» View Full Story «

 
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