PHOENIX— The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office was recently awarded a grant from the U.S. Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA) through its Sexual Assault Kit Initiative Grant Program for their ongoing initiatives to test sexual assault kits.
“This additional funding will help to not only hold offenders accountable for their crimes, but also prevent offenders from causing additional harm to the community,” said Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery. “This continued investment shows our commitment to seeking justice for the victims of these types of violent crimes.”
MCAO will use the funding for continued analysis of previously untested sexual assault evidence kits, as well as investigation and prosecution efforts of cases involving the kits. The new funding will add six positions dedicated to the ongoing initiative including a detective, and analyst, plus an additional advocate and support staff.
Grant funding has allowed for almost 2,700 sexual assault kits to be sent for testing. Matches found from those tests have led to six new indictments since 2016. Three cases are still awaiting trial, while three others have already led to convictions. This includes Nicholas Blackwater who was serving more than 50 years for previous sex assaults cases, he was sentenced to four additional years in August of this year. Antonio Ray Sullivan was already serving six years for burglary and sexual assault from 2011. The new charges led him to be sentenced to an additional 3.5 years and lifetime probation as a registered sex offender. Raul Lujan pled guilty to attempted sex assault, adding a15 year sentence to the 168 year sentence he was currently serving.
The testing of sexual assault kits can directly lead to criminal investigations and prosecutions by identifying previously unknown suspects or corroborating the identity of individuals previously suspected in these offenses. In cases where a suspect has not yet been identified, biological evidence from a sexual assault kit can be analyzed and compared to offender profiles in DNA databases such as the national Combined DNA Index System (CODIS), to help identify the perpetrator. In cases involving known alleged assailants, evidence from sexual assault kits can also be used to identify serial offenders.
A previous SAKI grant for 1.2 million dollars was awarded in 2016 to MCAO and a 2015 grant from the New York County District Attorney’s Office provided $1.9 million to test previously untested sexual assault kits.