While the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic continued to affect our daily lives this year, our staff’s commitment and dedication to public service remained unchanged. As 2021 comes to an end, we want to highlight the exceptional work of our employees and their dedication to improving the criminal justice system, supporting victims’ rights, holding offenders accountable, and keeping families safe. We look forward to another year of serving the residents of Maricopa County.
Maricopa County Announces Settlement with Manufacturers and Distributors of Prescription Opioids
Led by County Attorney Allister Adel and in collaboration with 14 County Attorneys and the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office reached an agreement to settle with manufacturers and distributors of opioids for their role in unlawfully marketing, promoting, and dispensing prescription opioids. This agreement will bring $580 million dollars to the state of Arizona and $80 million to the residents of Maricopa County. Funds will be used to treat, prevent, and help people recover from opioid use disorder and support both government and non-profit organizations working to address this issue.
MCAO Provides Grants to 13 Local Non-Profit Organizations
Every year, MCAO’s Community Grants Program provides funding to non-profit community agencies that support victims of crime and provide crime prevention education focused on substance abuse and gang activity. For the July 2021 grant cycle, MCAO awarded a total of $106,500 to 13 local non-profit organizations. By investing funds into organizations that are on the ground working to prevent crime, we are ensuring our work has a positive impact beyond the courtroom.
County Attorney’s Office Receives National Recognition for Home Detention Program and Data Dashboard
The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office was recognized with two National Achievement Awards from the National Association of Counties. The first award received was in the Civic Education and Public Information category for its Data Dashboard and the second award was in the Criminal Justice and Public Safety category for its Home Detention Program, which was developed in partnership with the Maricopa County Justice Courts.
Maricopa County Attorney Proactively Assists with Expungement of Prior Marijuana Convictions and Honors the Will of the Voters After the Passage of Prop 207
On Nov. 3, 2020, voters in Arizona passed Proposition 207, also known as the Smart and Safe Act. Immediately following the certification of the election, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office began proactively filing motions to dismiss pending cases in Maricopa County that would have been covered by the new statute.
In July of this year, the County Attorney’s Office started accepting applications for expungement of convictions and juvenile adjudications. To date, the office has filed to dismiss or drop over 7,818 charges related to the use, transportation, or cultivation of recreational marijuana.
County Attorney Employees Recognized in 2021
Every year, our employees are recognized for their work and dedication to public safety.
This year, three of our employees were recognized for their contributions to our communities and the criminal justice system by the Arizona Prosecuting Attorneys’ Advisory Council (APAAC). Deputy County Attorney (DCA) Mike Baker and Legal Support Supervisor Jolie Panyon both received Lifetime Achievement Awards and DCA Julie Done received the Appellate Prosecutor of the Year Award.
The Arizona Narcotic Officers Association (ANOA) recognized DCA Veronica Skinner as Prosecutor of the Year for her dedicated work and accomplishments on a large-scale wiretap investigation and consequent prosecutions. They also highlighted her trial work and training to law enforcement.
Detective John Kozeliski was recognized as an Outstanding Instructor by the Arizona High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area (AZHIDTA) for his support of the HIDTA training program, exceptional training skills, and willingness to share his knowledge and expertise with law enforcement officers, analysts, prosecutors, military personnel, and civilians across the state of Arizona.
County Attorney and Maricopa County Board of Supervisors (BOS) Receive National Honor for Elections Work
The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors and the County Attorney's Office received national recognition for their role in overseeing and ensuring free and fair elections in 2020. Since election day, the Civil Division Elections team has worked tirelessly to support and defend the Maricopa County BOS, the Office of the Recorder, and the Elections Department. Nearly twenty lawsuits were filed, and the team successfully defended the County’s processes and procedures; none of the claims of fraud or foul play have been substantiated.
Street Racing Prosecutions Efforts
Over the last several years, the Phoenix Police Department’s Street Racing Task Force has worked to address the increasing problem of illegal street racing on public roadways. As a result of their work, the County Attorney’s Office was able to move forward in the prosecution of some of the most prolific offenders of this dangerous criminal activity. As of this October, the office was prosecuting 12 illegal street racing cases and had begun processing over a dozen others.
MCAO Creates First-Ever Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Employee Committee
For the first time at the County Attorney’s Office, an employee committee to champion issues related to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the workplace was created. The DEI founding employee committee began its work in April of this year. Over the past eight months, the DEI employee committee has championed several important initiatives.
Initiatives included increasing MCAO’s involvement in minority bar organizations by funding employees’ dues to these organizations, ensuring communication efforts on behalf of the office are inclusive of the diverse communities and individuals we serve with bi-lingual social media posts and celebration of milestone DEI events, seeking input from the DEI employee committee to ensure more inclusive office and prosecution policies, conducting roundtable discussions to provide executive leadership with feedback on a variety of topics, and the creation of Employee Resource Groups (ERG) to foster inclusivity and provide spaces for employees to feel valued, understood, and share their valuable life experience with others.
Sexual Assault Testing Kit Backlog Complete
Ending the backlog of un-submitted sexual assault kits has been a focus of our elected leaders in Arizona and is a movement MCAO has been a leader on since 2015. In September 2015, District Attorney of New York County awarded MCAO $1.9 million to test 2,300 previously un-submitted sexual assault kits. This year, the County Attorney’s Office was able to efficiently use these funds to test the remaining 3,100 kits with this award, ending the backlog.
Adoption Services Celebrates 1 Year Anniversary!
During the summer of 2020, County Attorney Adel brought back adoption services to the County Attorney’s Office. Under Arizona law, the County Attorney’s Office is required to provide free legal representation in any uncontested adoption. Now, more than a year later Adoption Services has successfully completed 90 adoptions and saved tax payers close to $750,000 per year by handling the adoptions with MCAO staff.