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

The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office is dedicated to being a partner with our community. This month I want to highlight how we are making an impact on providing a safer community for you and your family, in ways you might not think of.
You might think of our Office primarily in terms of prosecution, but in truth, our focus is justice. That means finding the best outcomes for the public, the victim and even the defendant. Each year, our prosecutors volunteer at the Maricopa County Veteran StandDown to help veterans resolve criminal cases they may have, and provide them with the ability to overcome past mistakes and build a better future.
We are getting tougher on repeat shoplifters. While an incident of shoplifting might not seem like a big deal, repeat offenses are an indicator of an even larger problem; and this problem costs all of us with higher prices to cover losses.

While we care a lot about the people in our community, we also have a very soft spot for our furry friends. This office is dedicated to pursuing justice for animals who have been mistreated. We recently launched an Animal Cruelty Task Force to protect these vulnerable creatures and hold their abusers accountable.
Together, we can work toward a safer community.

Bill Montgomery Signature

Maricopa County Attorney’s Office Starts Animal Cruelty Task Force

Puppies in Suitcase

Arizona laws provide important protections for animals, whether living in the wild or as domestic pets in your home. The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office is committed to upholding these laws and prosecuting those who harm or abuse animals in our community.

Last summer, prosecutors in the Office’s Organized Crime Division joined detectives and officers from the Phoenix Police Department, Mesa Police Department, Gilbert Police Department, Chandler Police Department, Glendale Police Department, Tempe Police Department, the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office in addition to prosecutors from the City of Phoenix, City of Mesa, representatives from the Arizona Humane Society along with forensic vets and pathologists from Midwestern University Department of Veterinary Pathology to form a county-wide Animal Cruelty Task Force. The task force members are dedicated to investigating and arresting animal cruelty offenders and successfully prosecuting them or providing diversion options.

The group meets every other month to discuss recent trends, current animal cruelty questions, trial issues and different methods to ensure all agencies and jurisdictions are represented.

In between meetings, task force members communicate regularly and participate in presentations and training around the state. This dedication and common goal of addressing animal cruelty issues across the county benefits everyone because it allows our most knowledgeable animal cruelty detectives, prosecutors and professionals to share information and make our communities not only safer for animals but people as well. The link between animal abuse and family violence, sexual abuse and child neglect is well-known and has been linked to school shooters and even serial killers for decades. It is important that public safety agencies understand the need to communicate, collaborate and be in touch with each other regularly about these types of cases. Often law enforcement officers, prosecutors and animal professionals are first responders and the first point of contact in animal cruelty calls.
Casey Mundell, a prosecutor in the MCAO Special Crimes Bureau
and founding member of the task forcesums up the importance of this work and the task force, “People who abuse animals tend to take it to the next step. Often, when there is animal abuse, there is a child or family in danger or there is domestic violence, assault and neglect,” said Casey. “Having this task force full of experts who see these kinds of abusers first-hand should help an important issue gain the attention it needs – from law enforcement, prosecutors and the public. Having shared information encourages us to work together to end this kind of abuse.”

A recent success from the work of the task force comes from Alison Ferrante, Mesa City Prosecutor, and the Mesa Police Department. Their assistance in changing the investigative path for these cases was vital and helped move animal cruelty offense investigations to the Mesa Police Department as the first responder. A dedicated detective is now handling these kinds of cases and helping spread the word to officers in the field about why they are important. As a result, the Arizona Humane Society will now house and/or adopt out seized animals in Mesa animal cruelty investigations as well as transport deceased animals to Midwestern University for vital necropsies. In the months since this change was made, the number of animal cruelty submittals from Mesa to the MCAO has increased.

Partnership Aims to STOP Repetitive Shoplifters

STOP 1805

The signs are everywhere, on the glass of the automatic sliding doors at your favorite convenience store or right next to the mirror when you’re shopping for a new outfit: “Shoplifting is a crime and the store will prosecute any shoplifter to the fullest extent of the law.” It may seem an unnecessary warning to any law-abiding shopper, but these signs also serve as reminders that shoplifting affects everyone’s wallet.
Shoplifting is charged as a misdemeanor crime and is prosecuted at the city level. Unfortunately for some in our community, the threat of prosecution and risk of a misdemeanor is just a small inconvenience toward their plans to go and grab another case of beer or an outfit without paying for it first.
MCAO’s Community Based Prosecution bureaus have been working with city prosecutors for the past six months to identify repeat shoplifters who have already been offered all opportunities of reform through city level services and need a greater level of deterrence. This partnership first identified 44-year-old Brady Johnson, who, though he had been contacted by police officers more than 120 times in the last several years, continued to take goods without paying. Johnson had been arrested and prosecuted many times at the city level and each time had been offered services and programs instead of jail time. After going through all the “second chance” options with the city and still breaking the law, Johnson eventually accepted jail time and added class 1 misdemeanors to his criminal record. Unfortunately, like Johnson’s story, there are some who refuse to stop their criminal activity and are not deterred by city charges that pose a maximum sentence of a few months in jail.
This is where the new partnership between MCAO and city prosecutors has an important role. Aptly named “STOP 1805”, a combination of the acronym Shoplifting / Theft Offender Prosecution and the statute number for shoplifting. State law allows for those who commit several shoplifting crimes in a five-year span to be prosecuted for a felony instead of another misdemeanor.
STOP 1805 has helped to identify the community’s most habitual shoplifters. Johnson was the first defendant to be identified, prosecuted, and sentenced thought this partnership. He was recently sentenced to one-and-a half years in the Department of Corrections, a hefty punishment as compared to a normal sentence of probation for a first-time felony conviction. However, prosecutors were able to show the judge the full scope of Johnson’s criminal actions and his continuing decisions to repeatedly shoplift, despite the intervention of law enforcement and offers of services.
Repetitive shoplifters cause a drain on city resources, from the officers who spend time taking shoplifting reports to the prosecutors taking time to prosecute a suspect who is determined to offend again. Rather than continuing this cycle and impacting community resources, the partnership works to improve our community by collaboratively identifying repetitive shoplifters that have already exhausted all opportunities to reform and hold them accountable for their actions.
The numbers seen in just the first few prosecutions showcase the need for this felony level intervention. The first five defendants identified in this effort had a combined total of 105 arrests and 73 misdemeanor convictions. STOP 1805 has led to 12 defendants being charged with felony shoplifting since the partnership began six months ago. Prosecutors are taking care to ensure that only those showing an undeterred career of shoplifting are moved to a level of felony prosecutions. However, the positive outcomes already seen through this partnership has led other city prosecutors to become interested in the partnership helping it to expand to more areas of Maricopa County.

Standing Up for Veterans in Need:
Arizona Veterans StandDown Alliance

Arizona Veterans StandDown Alliance presents the 2019 Maricopa County StandDown

For three days in January, MCAO prosecutors volunteered at the 2019 Maricopa County StandDown, an annual event organized by the Arizona Housing Coalition's Arizona Veterans StandDown Alliance, where legal professionals come together to help veterans resolve outstanding misdemeanors, non-victim, non-DUI cases, and certain simple drug possession cases that can resolve with misdemeanor pleas. The event is a non-imposing atmosphere designed to work to help these veterans resolve their outstanding cases.
With MCAO’s help, over 142 felony cases were resolved, helping hundreds of homeless Arizona Veterans. MCAO volunteers handled the cases, made the offers and covered the courts at the Arizona Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Typical offers may be "time served," or "community service."
“This is an excellent community service opportunity and a chance to help veterans who are in need,” said MCAO Central Phoenix Bureau Chief, Suri Reddy.
According to a MCAO Deputy County Attorney in attendance, one veteran was seen crying after his court hearing because his very old drug paraphernalia conviction had been designated a misdemeanor and he could now “get a job, find a place to stay and become a productive member of society.”
MCAO participates annually in this event to resolve outstanding minor criminal matters  pending against veterans in Maricopa County and continues to support Veterans Court as part of our Maricopa County Superior Court
. Municipal and Superior Court judges are also present so cases can be resolved on site. The first two days of the event, veterans check in and are screened for eligibility, which determines whether they have any warrants or pending criminal matters that need to be resolved. Intake workers forward information about the veterans to the County Attorney’s Office if they find pending criminal matters.

Community Based Prosecution West, Justice Courts West Bureau Chief Inspires Confidence

Leslie LeMense
Leslie LeMense

Leslie LeMense has been a prosecutor for more than 20 years and has spent more than half that time at the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, working in the Trials Bureau, prosecuting gang members, vehicular cases, drug cases and identity theft matters and as a mentor. Now in her newest role as Bureau Chief of Community Based Prosecution (CBP) West, Justice Courts, she is leading 13 brand new prosecutors as they work in 16 different Justice Courts as they handle trials, motions and arguments while handling Regional Court Coverage and Video Appearance Court.

Bureau Chief LeMense is very busy and she loves it! As a long-time prosecutor, Leslie remembers her first days as a practicing attorney and her very first jury trial – which she lost. The not guilty verdict motivated her and her next jury trial, an attempted homicide, left an indelible impact on Leslie. The defendant put a gun to the head of the victim and pulled the trigger; yet the victim survived. As Leslie recounted this story to the jury she looked over and all of them were wiping tears from their eyes, clearly moved by the testimony. The defendant was found guilty and received an appropriate and lengthy sentence in the Department of Corrections.
As a Bureau Chief to new prosecutors, Leslie spends a good portion of each day answering questions and advising them on the best way to prepare for trial and the most logical way to approach the many different kinds of cases, defendants and victims that pass through the bureau as well as instilling the duty to seek justice in an ethical and professional manner
. “Every attorney in CBP is eager to learn and they want to soak up everything,” says Leslie. “As a long-time prosecutor I didn’t realize I had so many answers to so many different kinds of questions. I forget sometimes how far I’ve come and how much I’ve learned.”

Aaron Harder, MCAO Vehicular Crimes Bureau Chief, echoes this sentiment, “Leslie is caring and humble; she cares about the people she works with, the people she supervises and crime victims. Leslie is also humble. When she does not know the answer to something she seeks the answer from others and at the same time – she learns new things right along with them. These are great traits in a leader.”

If Leslie wasn’t a prosecutor, she would spend her time giving wine tours to travelers in Tuscany. Like her devotion to prosecution, she has an emotional connection to Italy and truly enjoys meeting new people and sharing new experiences with them. Leslie grew up without a lot of money and because of that she gained a huge sense of accomplishment after graduating from law school, “I feel like I am making positive contributions as a prosecutor and giving back. People helped me achieve my dream of law school and now I am able to return the favor.”

As a new Bureau Chief in a bureau prosecuting nearly 1,500 filings annually, Leslie’s sense of public service and wanting to make Maricopa County a better, safer place to live is why she takes her job so seriously, “Being a prosecutor is important work and I know all the attorneys here in CBP West share that same sense of accomplishment and are positioning themselves to impact crime and improve communities.”

MCAO Crime Analysts Recognized by the Arizona Association of Crime Analysts

AACA Evnet: Eddie Johnson keynote presentation
Eddie Johnson,
Administration Deputy Chief

The Arizona Association of Crime Analysts (AACA) held their quarterly meeting at the Rocky Mountain Information Network Center (RMIN) last month and more than 60 crime and research analysts from around the state were in attendance. In addition to several presentations from RMIN experts, MCAO Administration Deputy Chief Eddie Johnson and Crime Strategies Director Micah Gaudet provided the keynote presentation about the important work being done by the MCAO Crime Strategies Team and Intelligence-Focused Prosecution.  In addition, several MCAO analysts were recognized at the AACA Annual Awards: Criminal Intelligence Specialist Alyssa Ginter and Criminal Intelligence Analyst Erin Wickersham won the Innovators of the Year Award for improving analysis techniques.  Crime Statistical Analyst Annalynne Brown was a nominee in the New Analyst category and Crime Statistical Analyst Erik Milzcik was a nominee in the Efficiency category for improving productivity and effectiveness in analysis techniques.

Criminal Intelligence Analyst Erin Wickersham and Criminal Intelligence Specialist Alyssa Ginter won the AACA Innovators of the Year Award
Criminal Intelligence Analyst Erin Wickersham and Criminal Intelligence Specialist Alyssa Ginter won the AACA Innovators of the Year Award

MCAO Employees Join
Outdoor Fitness Classes in February

Regular exercise helps prevent heart disease, lingering illnesses, improves mood and sleep and reduces stress. Performing this regular exercise outdoors comes with perks for the mind and body and County employees were encouraged to get their daily dose of Vitamin D during February as four different Maricopa County exercise classes were offered outside. Total Body Express, Tai Chi, Yoga and Exercise Boot Camp were offered weekly to employees in February, in the grass courtyard across the street from the downtown County Administration Building and also outside at Durango and Mesa. The goal? To get County employees outdoors enjoying the nice weather and being active for 30 minutes during lunch. February was Heart Healthy Month and physical activity through outdoor fitness classes was encouraged across the County. The rainy weather that arrived in the Valley in the middle of the month prompted some of the classes to move inside but the hearty still showed up. Nearly 100 Maricopa County employees, including many from MCAO, signed up for the outside classes and enjoyed achieving harmony in their bodies while strengthening their core …. All under the warmth of the Valley sun. “Lots of MCAO folks skipped the indoor gym and headed outside,” reported MCAO Wellness Coordinator Gretchen McClellan. “The benefits of exercising outside are substantial, from increased focus to appreciating your surroundings. It was a perfect break in the day for busy MCAO employees.”

MCAO Employees Join Outdoor Fitness Classes in February

Community Engagement

MCAO volunteers were out in force this month participating in several community events
around the Valley…

Paradise Valley Public Safety Days
Paradise Valley Public Safety Days,
hosted by the Paradise Valley Police Department
Edison Eastlake
Edison Eastlake Community Connection Fair
Students at February Citizens Academy
Students attending our February Citizens Academy
Coronado Neighborhood Street Fair
Coronado Neighborhood Street Fair

Community Calendar

Upcoming Events Calendar

One Million Steps Toward Ending Violence

Saturday, March 9
9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Hermosa Park
2030 East Southern Avenue
Phoenix, AZ 85040

MCAO Citizen Safety Forum (Paradise Valley)

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, 8th Floor
Phoenix, AZ 85003
More Info and Sign Up

MCAO Mega Shred-A-Thon

Monday, April 15
4:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m.
International Paper
301 South 30th Street
Phoenix, AZ 85034

Pat’s Run

Saturday, April 27
6:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Arizona State University’s Sun Devil Stadium
500 East Veterans Way
Tempe, AZ 85287

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