Last month, Deputy County Attorney Veronica Skinner was awarded the Prosecutor of the Year Award by the Arizona Narcotic Officers Association for her significant accomplishments in a large-scale wiretap investigation, prosecutions, trial work, and training to law enforcement.
Meet Veronica Skinner
At the start of her high school career at Scottsdale Christian Academy, DCA Veronica Skinner felt a calling to serve her community as a public servant. Originally from Chicago, Illinois, Veronica and her family moved to Arizona at the start of eighth grade, where they had a vacation home. After graduating from high school, Veronica was set on following a career path in law. “I went to college knowing I desired to pursue a law degree to better enable me to serve my community.” For her undergraduate studies, Veronica headed back to Illinois where she attended Wheaton College. During a college internship experience with the Phoenix office of former United States Senator Jon Kyl, Veronica explained that “the professionalism and humility with which the entire office served the Arizona community” reaffirmed her commitment to public service. Her time at Senator Kyl’s office also introduced her to the unique challenges public servants in a border state are faced with on a daily basis.
After receiving her bachelor’s degree in political science, Veronica headed to the University of Virginia School of Law. During her first year, she intended to pursue a career in either prosecution or national security. At that time, she had been accepted into an Air Force JAG program, but an internship with MCAO left her knowing she had a passion to litigate and be in court, particularly in her home state.
After interning with the U.S Attorney’s Phoenix office, MCAO, and her law school’s prosecution clinic, Veronica decided that “MCAO was the path for me to serve my community best and combine my dual passion for prosecution and border issues by serving as a drug trafficking attorney.” So, in January of 2015, she was officially sworn in as a Deputy County Attorney.
During her time with MCAO, Veronica has been a great asset to the Drug Enforcement Bureau (DEB). The DEB focuses on homicide prosecutions related to drug trafficking, such as murders that occur during “drug rips” or when someone attempts to rob a drug dealer. Resolution of these cases helps bring a sense of justice to the family members of the victim and helps keep the individuals who commit these crimes out of communities. “I find myself and my bureau mates have a deep concern for the homicide victims we interact with and the victimization of the community that we help prevent by removing these large amounts of drugs.”
The DEB also handles many long-term investigations including those that involve wiretaps. These investigations require daily work and collaboration with law enforcement and guidance on best practices in prosecution. Unlike what you see on popular media, wiretap trials are rare due to the volume of evidence facing a criminal defendant. One of Veronica’s most outstanding achievements recently involved acquiring guilty verdicts against a drug trafficker during a month-long trial involving a wiretap investigation. Veronica spent months preparing the evidence and demonstrated excellent trial skills, organization, and commitment to justice while leading this significant case. The investigation was a joint effort by the AZ Department of Public Safety and Homeland Security Investigations which resulted in the seizure of 520 pounds of marijuana, 3 kilograms of cocaine, and $241,835 in drug proceeds.
It’s this line of work what gives Veronica a sense of purpose. “I love knowing every night when I go to bed that my work impacts the lives of my fellow community members in a positive way.” Supporting investigations and achieving guilty verdicts has a significant impact beyond the courtroom. “Given the opioid epidemic plaguing our county, state, and nation, and the fact that 2 milligrams of fentanyl can be lethal, every amount of fentanyl removed from the streets represents a potential life saved.” Drug addiction can contribute to other crimes including violent offenses, property crimes, and drug trafficking. “I know that for every ounce, pound, or pill of illicit drugs that are taken off the street, another community member’s life may have been saved from an overdose death or from entering the cycle of addiction that leads to other crimes that plague our community.”
While her day-to-day includes appearing in court, resolving cases with plea agreements, attending evidentiary hearings, researching, and writing motions, Veronica makes time to help others better understand the criminal justice process. Twice a month, she shares her expertise on prosecution-related topics at various narcotic agencies throughout the valley. Her expertise has been useful to law enforcement partners who can use her guidance to disrupt fentanyl trafficking rings in the valley. Recently she’s also developed and taught classes for the Phoenix Police Department and the High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area Training Center.
Keeping a full calendar and staying as busy as she does is not easy. At times the job can feel “draining, it can feel thankless.” The daily struggles are part of the reward for Veronica and that’s why she recommends those interested in following this career path to discover their “why”. “For me, that can be summed up in doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly as best I can each day.”
Veronica’s work is at the core of MCAO’s mission to support victims, hold criminals accountable, and help prevent crime and we are grateful to have her on our team!