Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Seal
Maricopa County Attorney’s Office
Justice for All
February 2019
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery

2019 has gotten off to a great start and we’re building on the momentum. This past month, we participated in the annual Stand Up Speak Up Save a Life conference that brings together kids from schools around the county and even some outside the county to learn about the importance of stopping bullying and helping others. We held a shred-a-thon and prescription drug take-back in Surprise—you’ll find information about the next one in Chandler in this issue. We held our first Citizens Academy of the year and went back to visit our winning High School from our award-winning Friday Night Football Patrol program, and rewarded them with a pizza party.
With Valentine
s Day coming up this month, we highlight some things to keep in mind if you or someone you know uses online dating resources so you can avoid becoming the victim of crime.
In this issue, I’d like to highlight a couple of members of our staff who do extraordinary work and the new programs they are spearheading for this Office. April Sponsel, with our Community Based Prosecution West Bureau, has developed a program to help law enforcement officers better prepare to give testimony in court. Victim Services Advocate Joanna Zigler is working under a grant to help victims of sex trafficking find resources and make their way through an often-intimidating court system.
As always, you can see where we’ll be in the community during the next month in our Calendar of Events.

Bill Montgomery Signature

Joanna Zigler: Serving the Unique Needs of Sex Trafficking Victims

Joanna Zigler
Joanna Zigler

Sex trafficking and child exploitation cases are complex and understandably sensitive in nature. The victims in these crimes often have great and unique needs and MCAO Victim Advocate Joanna Zigler is dedicated to making sure these needs are met.
The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Victim Services Division was awarded the Sexual Exploitation and Sex Trafficking grant to serve these very vulnerable victims. This specialized grant, from the Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) and administered by the Arizona Department of Public Safety, makes it possible for Joanna to provide specialized services to victims of sexual exploitation, sex trafficking and victims with non-supportive guardians.
When separated from their abuser, victims often need housing and basic items such as clothing and toiletries. Joanna helps to find specialty housing for victims of sex trafficking, so they are safe and have their individual needs met. She pointed to one victim who had a child and a dog and needed a place that could accommodate both. Joanna works to identify and develop community resources, meets regularly with victims, accompanies them to hearings and meetings and will assist in finding resources to meet their individual needs.
Joanna works collaboratively with other agencies throughout Maricopa County such as Phoenix Vice and with the advocate there who also specializes in working with trafficked victims. This helps to create a seamless approach in serving these victims when they transition from the investigative phase to the prosecution phase.
Joanna also works with victims of Child Sexual Exploitation and with cases where there may be a vulnerable child with unsupportive parents. She strives hard to work with these families to ensure that the victims are getting the services they need and that victims feel supported and heard.
A trauma bond can be very strong between a victim and a perpetrator and therefore, victims of sex trafficking often do not view themselves as victims, so Joanna takes the time needed to establish rapport and build trust.
Sometimes just being there for them empowers victims to be able to speak about what they’ve gone through,” said Joanna. “This trust is needed to help support the victim throughout the justice process and ultimately hold the offender accountable.”
Joanna is a knowledgeable and skilled advocate for both minor victims and adult victims of sex trafficking. She has a degree in Family Studies and Human Development from the University of Arizona and began her career interning at the Arizona Department of Child Safety. She then took a position with Jewish Family and Children’s Services, working with parents who had their children removed from the home to provide education on parenting skills and to facilitate visits with their children while they went through the program. After that experience and
before joining us at MCAO, she went to work for CASA—Court Appointed Special Advocates—which gave her direct experience helping child victims navigate the court system.

Bringing Awareness to the Scourge of Human Trafficking

County Attorney Bill Montgomery addressing the “A Night of Hope: Exposing the Practices of Human Trafficking" Crowd

January was Human Trafficking Awareness Month and last month, 21 churches in the East Valley came together for “A Night of Hope: Exposing the Practices of Human Trafficking,” to take a stand against the horrific realities of the practice.
County Attorney Bill Montgomery addressed the nearly 1,000 people in attendance and started by explaining how Arizona’s highway system and geographic location creates opportunities for traffickers to move the individuals along the interstate freeway system. He emphasized the importance of people taking action by picking up the phone and making the call to law enforcement when they come into contact with a victim of human trafficking. He then reminded attendees that Arizona has increased penalties for the pimps and those who purchase individuals for sex.
Sadly, since 2015 the number of human trafficking cases prosecuted by MCAO has doubled. However, in the last two years MCAO has been able to secure sentences ranging from 102-330 years for child prostitution and sex traffickers.
“You see this is a market place where people are trading in human flesh,” said County Attorney Bill Montgomery. “If you don’t have a buyer, you can’t have a seller. If there are no sellers, there are no victims.”

MCAO Raises Funds for Homeward Bound

Homeward Bound Check Presentation

MCAO employees participated in a fundraising campaign for Homeward Bound this Fall by purchasing casual day passes. The passes allowed staff to dress down one day per week with all proceeds benefitting this truly worthy cause. The campaign ran from September through December. Employees raised $3,484.00.

Homeward Bound supports families by providing them with housing, case managers, education and job assistance, along with emergency pantries for food, clothing, and household items.
To learn more about Homeward Bound, and to donate, visit:

New Training Helps Prepare Law Enforcement To Give Effective Courtroom Testimony

April Sponsel
April Sponsel

Long-time MCAO prosecutor April Sponsel has been in a courtroom more times than she can count. After watching many of the newer law enforcement officers participate in trials, she recognized the need to ensure these folks were not only prepared for Court, but also had the tools to provide effective and expert testimony.
When law enforcement officers testify in court, the jury, judge, prosecutor, defense and often even the public are watching and listening. It’s important for officers, detectives, crime scene specialists, crime analysts and all those in law enforcement to be effective, knowledgeable and above all prepared. After talking with many new officers and recalling a previous MCAO class specific to testimony for gang detectives, April created a “testimony class” specifically for officers. With blessings from her Bureau Chief at the time, Gina Godbehere, April reached out to the Associate Presiding Judge and began creating a class plan that included use of a courtroom and role-playing using direct and cross examination. April knew many officers have never testified in Superior Court or maybe had only testified a few times.
As a result, April was able to put together a successful Courtroom Testimony class that includes experienced detectives who attend as a refresher, short presentations explaining the nuances and inner workings of the courtroom that officers may not be aware of, and a mock trial held in an actual courtroom.
April engages experienced officers to come to the class and play different parts—some who’s parts call for them to become belligerent with defense counsel and others who are playing calm, cool and collected. Some “actors” in the mock trial forget what they wrote and keep asking to see the report, others don’t speak loud enough. The goal is to demonstrate officers doing a great job testifying and others who do a poor job testifying so class participants will understand how the jury might react to the differences. The class also utilizes different levels of experience in prosecutors. Newer prosecutors are encouraged to participate because the class is a learning experience for them as well and gives them an opportunity to participate in different types of cross examination. The testimony class has been so successful that a version has now been created specific to crime analysts and will be offered a second time to this audience this summer.
April tells us the overall goal of the class, both for officers and analysts, is to prepare them to be confident so their expertise comes through in testimony despite different styles of questioning and different types of cases. April is also developing an advanced course—limited to 10 participants—who would like to have the chance to be put through a direct and cross examination. This class may be offered to officers with 1 to 9 years of experience who have not testified more than 5 times in Superior Court in a felony trial. “I think the class is important to help ease the stress of the unknown for those who have never testified,” said April. “The class gives those who attend insight on how they may be examined by the defense on many levels and how they can effectively answer questions. It also is an opportunity for officers to network with prosecutors and other agencies which makes for successful communication across the board.”

Stand Up Speak Up Save a Life Conference

Over 3,000 sixth through ninth graders from across Maricopa County attended the Third Annual Speak Up Stand Up Save a Life Conference hosted at Grand Canyon University.

Stand Up Speak Up Conference

The full day event encourages students to become advocates for themselves and others by tackling issues such as depression and bullying

Stand Up Speak Up Conference

To learn more about the program visit:

Officer Cupid’s Online Dating Safety Tips

Officer Cupid

Are you currently swiping for love? Looking for Mr. or Mrs. Right online is more common today than ever before, but it’s popularity often causes daters to overlook their own personal safety and doesn’t give you the chance to have someone you know make you aware of a date’s background.
With Valentine’s Day coming up, we’d like to help you avoid becoming a victim with a few common-sense safety tips you should consider before meeting your next “perfect” match.

  1. Limit Personal Information Sharing
    Getting to know each other is essential to the dating process, but that doesn’t mean you have to share your life story right away. You can get to know someone without sharing specific information about yourself. For example, if a “match” asks where you work, you can simply say what industry you work in rather than the business’s name.

    Also, be careful what you share online. Many new dating apps are linked to various social media accounts. You can’t give vague answers as a safety precaution but have it all posted and shared online.

  2. Tell Someone
    A first date can be exciting and nerve-wracking, but NEVER forget to let someone know if you’re meeting someone that you met online. You can be as descriptive as you’d like to whomever you talk to regularly, but at a minimum you should be sharing: Where you are meeting and the name of the person you’re meeting. Another thing to think about- share an image of your date with a friend.

  3. Do Some Online Research
    It’s OKAY to Google your “match” before a date. Using search engines is a great starting point for any online dater. Search both the name and image of your “match” before ever meeting them in person.

  4. Meet in Public
    Have you ever heard the saying “safety in numbers”? Well, it applies to online dating situations! While a nice hike may seem like the perfect first date, be sure to make plans to meet where other people will be, like a restaurant or coffee shop.

  5. Arrive and Leave Alone
    It may seem romantic to be picked up for a first date, or walked to your front door, but it’s not the safest choice when it comes to online dating. Like the rest of your personal information, you should never share your personal address with someone you don’t really know. And with so many different transportation options, there is no reason a person can’t get home alone safely.

  6. Pay Attention to Your Alcohol Intake
    This may be an obvious safety tip but it’s easy to have “one more drink”, especially on a nerve-inducing first date. Remember that drinking too much can impair your judgement and cause you to be less aware of your surroundings.

Friday Night Football Patrol Pizza Party

iHeartRadio and MCAO Community Affairs staff got to stop by Valley Vista High School with 100 Sardella’s pizzas to recognize and celebrate the school’s outstanding participation in the Office’s Annual Friday Night Football Patrol Program. Valley Vista High School had the most student volunteers participate in the program, resulting in nearly 2,500—99% of the student body—signed student pledges to stay drug and alcohol free.  Congratulations Valley Vista High School for having the most signed pledges of the 2018 season! 

Valley Vista wins FNFP Pizza Party

Learn More About Criminal Justice at the
MCAO Citizens Academy 

MCAO Citizens Academy

If you’ve ever wondered what it’s like to be a prosecutor, or how a criminal case gets to trial, our Citizens Academy is for you. Applications are now being accepted for winter and spring sessions.

The Citizens Academy takes you behind the scenes to show how a case progresses from the initial investigation through final sentencing. You’ll sit in on courtroom proceedings, take a tour of the jail, and learn about trial exhibits, cold case investigations and more.

Classes last one full day, and upcoming dates are listed below. Classes fill up fast, so apply early.

For more information and to register, visit:

Upcoming 2019 Dates

February 21
March 28
April 18
May 16
June 13

Applications due two weeks before class date.

Surprise Shred-A-Thon and Drug Take-Back 

Surprise Shred-A-Thon and Drug Take-Back
The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office and the Surprise Police Department held their Annual Shred-A-Thon and Drug Take-Back event January 12. This year’s efforts collected 132.2 lbs. of prescription drugs and provided free shredding services for 340 citizens.

Community Calendar

Upcoming Events Calendar

Stand Up Speak Up Save a Life Resource Nights

Wednesday, February 6
6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Perry High School
1919 East Queen Creek Road
Gilbert, AZ 85297

Wednesday, February 20
6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Grand Canyon University
3300 West Camelback Road
Phoenix, AZ 85017

Wednesday, February 27
6:30 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Pendergast Community Center
10550 West Mariposa Street
Phoenix, AZ 85037

MCAO Shred-A-Thon and Rx Take-Back in Chandler

Saturday, February 16
7:00 a.m. – 10:00 a.m.
Target Parking Lot
3425 West Frye Road
Chandler, AZ 85226

MCAO Citizens Academy

Thursday, February 21
(Application Deadline 2/7/19)
8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Maricopa County Administration Building
301 West Jefferson Street
Phoenix, AZ 85003
More Info and Sign Up

Edison-Eastlake Community Connection Fair

Saturday, February 23
10:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.

18th Street between Villa Street and McKinley Street
700 North 18th Street
Phoenix, AZ 85006

Community Safety Fair

Saturday, February 23
10:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Paradise Valley Police Department
6433 East Lincoln Drive
Paradise Valley, AZ 85253

Coronado Neighborhood Association Home Tour and Street Fair

Sunday, February 26
10:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Coronado Park
1717 North 12th Street
Phoenix, AZ 85006

MCAO Citizen Safety Forum

Tuesday, March 19
5:30 p.m. – 7:30 p.m.
United Methodist Church
4455 East Lincoln Drive
Paradise Valley, AZ 85253

Sign Up Today:

MCAO Citizens Academy

Thursday, March 28
(Application Deadline 3/14/19)
8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Maricopa County Administration Building
301 West Jefferson Street
Phoenix, AZ 85003
More Info and Sign Up

Cases of Community Interest

Mugshot Jesus Ceja

Jesus Ceja Sentenced to Six Years for Aggravated DUI for Being a Wrong-Way Driver

Jesus Ceja was sentenced to six years in the Department of Corrections after pleading guilty to aggravated driving while under the influence. This is the first time a case was prosecuted under HB2243, the Arizona law that charges an impaired wrong-way driver on the highway with a felony.

“This defendant was given the maximum sentence for his dangerous actions and his sentence will ensure that he will not pose a threat on our roadways to anyone for anytime soon,” said Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery.

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