Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel
News From The
Maricopa County Attorney’s Office
November 2019
As the newly-appointed Maricopa County Attorney, I am honored to serve this community. Since my appointment on October 3 by the Maricopa Board of Supervisors, I am grateful for the warm welcome extended to me by those at the Maricopa County Attorney's Office. I am humbled to lead a group of talented men and women who seek justice for victims of crime and work tirelessly every single day to ensure that the rule of law is applied fairly in this community. 

I know that prosecutors wield incredible power, and as such, bear great responsibility to be fair and ethical. A prosecutor’s primary responsibility is to do justice; for victims, for public safety and for defendants.

In the coming months, my priorities will be to: 
  • Protect the rights of victims and hold criminals accountable, while being just and reasonable.
  • Ensure judicious operations with a focus on efficiencies and process improvements that are grounded in evidence-based practices.
  • Develop collaborative relationships with the courts, the sheriff’s office, partners in county government, first responders, the legislature, and those in our community who seek to better our criminal justice system. 

In the spirit of collaboration and inclusivity, I have asked a group of community leaders and experts in their fields to serve on a transition team. Along with the professional staff of the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office they will provide me recommendations to develop a strategic plan for the County Attorney’s Office that is measurable, meaningful, and enduring.

As the Office moves forward with our priorities and goals, I pledge to you an unwavering commitment to making our community a better place
Allister Adel Signature

Allister Adel Makes History,
Named Maricopa County Attorney

This article originally appeared in the Scottsdale Independent, Friday, October 4, 2019
Allister Adel (center right) was sworn into office Thursday, Oct. 3 after a unanimous vote of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, appointing her as Maricopa County Attorney.
Allister Adel (center right) was sworn into office Thursday, Oct. 3 after a unanimous vote of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, appointing her as Maricopa County Attorney.

For the first time in Maricopa County history, a woman will serve as the county’s chief prosecutor.

Allister Adel was sworn into office Thursday, Oct. 3 after a unanimous vote of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors, appointing her as Maricopa County Attorney, according to a press release.

“I am excited that the Board has selected Allister Adel as the next Maricopa County Attorney,” Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Gates, District 3, said in a prepared statement.

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MCAO Prosecutors Team Up with
National and Local Partners to Solve Gun Crimes

GCIC Shell Casing Evidence

Firearms are increasingly being used in the commission of violent crimes against innocent victims in Maricopa County. Shooter Dwight Jones went on a four-day killing streak in Phoenix, Scottsdale and Fountain Hills in 2018, killing six people all of whom he believed were responsible for different parts of his bitter divorce and child custody battle. Jones ultimately took his own life as law enforcement closed in on him in a motel room. Cleophus Cooksey was arrested for nine different murders over a three-week period in Phoenix in 2017 and is set for trial in Maricopa County early next year. These kinds of multi-defendant, multi-incident, multi-law enforcement cases are increasing and these complex cases require specialized support and investigation.

In 2018, the City of Phoenix partnered with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) and was awarded a grant to help combat the increase of violent crimes by linking the shell casings in the National Integrated Ballistics Information Network (NIBIN), so when one gun is used for multiple crimes—in different cities or even states, and over different dates—investigators and prosecutors are able to put the puzzle together faster and easier than ever before. NIBIN not only assists with arrests and cases but also with leads that often result in arrests and solved cases.

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Partnership Studies Head Injuries in  
Domestic Violence Victims
Greater Understanding of Trauma Will Lead to More Effective Treatment

MRI Head Brain Images

In recent years, a growing focus has been placed on head injuries leading to concussion in athletes from youth to professional players. However, an emerging group is showing an even greater risk for these types of injuries. These victims may be even more underreported, hindered from coming forward by secrecy, fear and even embarrassment. They are the victims of domestic violence.

One in four women and one in seven men will experience domestic violence in their lifetime, almost half of these victims will suffer a physical injury and only a quarter will seek medical attention. These victims have an increased risk for concussion because domestic violence often includes violent acts, such as choking, blows to the head or being violently shaken. Researchers found that 92% of battered women report receiving a head injury with most suffering at least one concussion. The true numbers are not known, however, because rigorous analysis and verification of the frequency of these injuries does not widely exist.


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Dressing Down for A Cause

During the summer months, MCAO held a Casual Day Campaign. Employees were able to donate funds for a “season pass,” allowing them to dress down one day a week. This summer’s chosen charity was the Phoenix Rescue Mission and employees raised nearly $3000.

MCAO is proud to support Phoenix Rescue Mission and the life-changing work they do for hundreds of people every day throughout their many programs.

Maricopa County Attorney's Office presents the Phoenix Rescue Mission with a check for $2,988
Maricopa County Attorney's Office presents the Phoenix Rescue Mission
with a check for $2,988

Justice that Restores

Paralegal John Mann
Paralegal John Mann

Justice is an often misunderstood word in the criminal justice system. At the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, employees see justice as something more than punitive, they see it as seeking a resolution that is restorative. Offering justice to those impacted by crime means looking at what is best for a victim, a defendant, families and communities.

One recent case highlights such an effort by paralegal John Mann who works in the Office’s Asset Recovery Bureau. Mann works on cases involving money and goods obtained by criminals, that if proven to be illegal gains by a judge, can be legally removed from their ownership. In this case, the defendant—who had been arrested several times for the use and sale of methamphetamine—was found by officers to have more than $5,000 cash in his possession. Some of the cash could be linked to illegal drug sales and a judge ordered those funds taken from the defendant. However, some of the money found was legally gained by the defendant as part of an insurance settlement.


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Making a Difference for Crime Victims

Detective John Byrd and Eugenia Wright
Detective John Byrd and Eugenia Wright


In 2015, the Phoenix Police Department submitted a case to our Office involving stolen property among roommates. The victim, Eugenia Wright, had allowed the defendant and her children to stay at her home while they were awaiting entrance to a domestic violence shelter. While at Eugenia’s home, the defendant stole and attempted to pawn several items belonging to Eugenia and her daughter—including the victim’s iPod, a clarinet and an Xbox. The Phoenix detective, with assistance from the pawn shop, investigated the theft and identified the defendant.

In an initial telephone conversation, the defendant admitted only to knowing the victim and then claimed the victim had let her pawn the items. After the detective told her the victim did not give this permission, the defendant admitted taking the property and pawning it. The detective confirmed this theft through identification used on the pawn tickets, including fingerprints. The defendant was apprehended and the case was charged by the MCAO. As a result, MCAO detective John Byrd contacted the victim several times to keep her apprised as the case moved along through the criminal justice system. Sometimes those attempts went unanswered and often the victim was not present, causing the prosecutor and Detective Byrd to become concerned the case would have to be dismissed.

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Be Bully Free AZ

Bully Free AZ Sponsors: KTAR News, Earnhardt Auto Center, Arizona Sports Network, Bear Essential News, Harkins Theaters and the Maricopa County Attorney's Office

October was National Bully Awareness month, and MCAO, in partnership with KTAR/ Arizona Sports and the Earnhardt Auto Group, held two Bully Free AZ events in Maricopa County.

Specifically geared toward elementary school and junior high school students, the events featured a presentation by MCAO Community Affairs staff on how to identify what bullying is, how a bystander can intervene and when bullying can cross the line into a criminal act. This served as an opportunity to get the conversation started between parents and students as 1 in 4 students in grades 6-12 report being bullied.

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Learn More About Criminal Justice at the
MCAO Citizens Academy

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.

Upcoming Dates

November 13, 2019
January 16, 2020
February 20, 2020
March 19, 2020
April 16, 2020
May 14, 2020

For more information and to register, visit:
MaricopaCountyAttorney.org/Academy


*Applications due 4 weeks before class date.


Events Calendar

Glendale GAIN Kickoff & Fall Festival

Saturday, November 2
1:00 p.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Sahuaro Ranch Park
9802 North 59th Avenue
Glendale, AZ 85302

Walk Like MADD

Sunday, November 3
7:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.
Walk Like MADD
6111 South All American Way
Tempe, AZ 85283

Phoenix Veterans Day Parade 2019

Monday, November 11
11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
The parade starts at Montebello & Central runs southbound, then turns East on Camelback Rd., and then turns South on 7th Street and de-stages at Indian School Rd.
Phoenix, AZ 85012
More Info: HonoringAmericasVeterans.org

MCAO Citizens Academy

Wednesday, November 13
8:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.
Maricopa County Attorney’s Office
301 West Jefferson Street
Phoenix, AZ 85003
More Info & Register: MaricopaCountyAttorney.org/Academy


Cases of Community Interest

Mugshot Deandre James

Deandre James Sentenced to 354 Years for Child Prostitution

Deandre James was sentenced to 354 years in the Department of Corrections after being found guilty on all 19 counts including; 14 counts of child prostitution, two counts of sexual conduct with a minor, and one count each of child sex trafficking, custodial interference, and involving minors in a drug offense.

“This sentencing is the result of the work by investigators and our prosecutors to ensure a defendant who made a living by preying on these young victims is never able to do this again,” said Chief Deputy Rachel Mitchell. “Despite the difficulty of providing their experiences to a jury and the court, these victims ensured the justice served was possible.”
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Mugshot Jorge Acosta

Jorge Acosta Sentenced to 40 Years for Breaking Into Home and Terrorizing Family

Jorge Acosta was recently sentenced to 40 years in the Department of Corrections after pleading guilty to second degree murder, burglary and two counts of aggravated assault for breaking into his ex-girlfriend’s home and shooting her and killing her mother.

“The defendant's murder of Maria Castillo was senseless, and the sentence for the defendant’s reckless actions that night illustrates our resolve to hold him fully accountable, despite his attempts to hide and avoid taking responsibility,” said Chief Deputy Rachel Mitchell.
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Mugshot Jarre Edward Bjelic

Jarre Edward Bjelic Sentenced to 4.5 Years for Threatening Young Girls to Get Nude Photos of Them

Jarre Edward Bjelic was sentenced to 4.5 years in the Department of Corrections after pleading guilty to three counts of theft by extortion and one count of attempted fraud schemes.

“This sentencing cannot fix the damage this predator has inflicted on almost a dozen young girls whom he preyed on for his own ego and selfish desires, however it will protect our community from further harm while he is forced to think about his harmful actions,” said Chief Deputy Rachel Mitchell.
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Mugshot Wendy Lavarnia

Wendy Lavarnia Sentenced to 10.5 Years for A Shooting that Killed Her Young Son

Wendy Lavarnia was sentenced to 10.5 years in the Department of Corrections after pleading guilty to manslaughter and attempted child abuse for the death of her 9-year-old son who was shot in the head while playing video games inside the family home.

“The defendant's attempt to hide her own conduct while she allowed her son to suffer may be at the heart of this case, but no one may truly understand the damage she inflicted on an innocent toddler by placing the blame for Landen’s death in his hands instead of her own,” said Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel.
» View Full Story «

Mugshot Dion Earl

Dion Earl Sentenced to 12 Years for Sexually Assaulting Women He Hired as Babysitters

Dion Earl was sentenced to 12 years in the Department of Corrections after being found guilty by a jury of sexual assault, public sexual indecency and two counts each of kidnapping and assault.

“This Office is committed to seeking justice for victims and holding defendants who prey on and terrorize young women fully accountable for their crimes,” said Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel. “This is the culmination of excellent work by local law enforcement and the prosecutorial team lead by Yigael Cohen, they all remained committed to ensuring this sentencing was possible.”
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