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Civil justice advocates raise new concerns about gang charges amid Valley court case

Posted at 10:30 PM, Jul 14, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-21 00:52:32-04

Civil justice advocates say the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office is prosecuting someone for free speech by inappropriately charging him as a gang member.

Last year, ABC15 investigators exposed how this same office under a different leader fabricated gang Charges against Black Lives Matter protesters following the death of George Floyd.

The advocates say the case against Glen Robertson, which is in trial this week, is more of the same kind of prosecutorial misconduct.

At the height of the social justice protests after George Floyd’s death, Phoenix police were called to a hit-and-run.

Police body camera video show officers immediately detaining two people, Glen Robertson and his brother.

“That’s my brother, what did I do officer?” said Robertson in the body camera recording.

Robertson repeatedly shouted George Floyd’s final words, "I can’t breathe," as he was being detained.

He denies being involved in the hit-and-run.

“I walked to the store, and I walked home with my bottle, and I got slammed. Black Lives Matter! You want your body cam? Let’s go, y’all want to be the next ones, let’s go,” said Robertson.

What he said next led to the indictment on felony threatening and gang charges.

“What you going to do? Nothing! Or you can take these cuffs off and get it in the back street on the crip s---,” he said.

“Oh, what does that mean?” said a Phoenix Police Officer.

“You tell me since you slammed me and put your knee on my back. Yes, you did. I couldn’t breathe,” said Robertson.

Court documents state police could smell alcohol on Robertson's breath and police found marijuana in a car he was reportedly driving. He was charged with DUI in a separate case.

This week, however, the social justice advocacy group Mass Liberation AZ says Robertson’s case is another example of county prosecutors tacking on felony gang charges against people who have a right to protest officers’ actions.

”Three judges have already stated, this is a weak case,” said Lola N’sangou with Mass Liberation.

Demarcus Woods was called to testify as a gang expert in Robertson’s defense on Wednesday.

He’s a Lieutenant with the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections.

Lt. Woods and advocates with Mass Liberation told ABC15 that prosecutors told the court he was fired from his job for testifying that Robertson isn’t a gang member.

Lt. Woods said that was news to him.

”I haven’t received notice of anything like that but obviously it’s been made public,” said Lt. Woods during a press conference with Mass Liberation on Thursday.

On Monday July 18, officials with the Maricopa County Attorney's Office shared a partial recording of the hearing, in which the prosecutor states, “My understanding is, ADJC is going to terminate [Lt. Woods] for testifying because he is not authorized by them to testify as a gang expert.”

On Friday, officials with the Arizona Department of Juvenile Corrections reaffirmed that Lt. Woods has not been terminated and remains an active employee.

In the original recordings obtained by ABC15, it is clarified that Lt. Woods was testifying as a private expert, not as an ADJC employee.

A complete recording of the hearing was not immediately available.

Mass Liberation has sent a letter to County Attorney Rachel Mitchell calling for the charges to be dropped, the prosecutor on this case to be fired for intimidating a witness and the gang unit to be disbanded.

Mitchell’s office declined to comment on this story saying it would violate attorney ethical standards regarding trial publicity.

The jury is expected to deliberate early next week.