PHOENIX — Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel personally sent a letter to Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams raising concerns about the credibility of multiple officers involved in protest cases exposed in an ongoing ABC15 investigation.
The letter is dated April 19th and specifically outlines issues with the statements and testimony of five Phoenix officers, including a sergeant who helped prosecutors falsely charge a group of protesters as a criminals street gang.
Adel asked Phoenix to investigate the officers so that MCAO could consider placing them on the so-called “Brady” list, a collection of officers with histories of dishonesty, bias, criminal activity, and other integrity concerns.
“We believe the specific instances described below warrant further investigation in whatever manner your department chooses,” Adel wrote.
The letter is significant and contradicts public statements made by Adel last week when her office permanently dismissed the case against the protesters arrested on Oct. 17, 2020, and then charged as a gang.
In her written statement, Adel said it was in the “interest of justice to not proceed.”
She then added, “This decision in no way reflects negatively on the hard work law enforcement performed that night in preventing violence and property damage, and other crimes to keep our community safe.”
ABC15 has spent months investigating the group’s arrest and prosecution in addition to several other protest cases.
Officers and prosecutors worked together to falsely charge the group with a series of wild exaggerations and lies. In the most egregious instance, Sgt. Doug McBride and prosecutor April Sponsel told a grand jury the group could be compared to the Bloods, Crips, and Hells Angels.
A week before MCAO’s decision to fully dismiss the case, a judge already tossed the gang charges in a scathing ruling. The court found prosecutors and officers “colluded in their efforts present the grand jury with false information regarding a non-existent gang.”
McBride is one of the officers that Adel mentioned in the April 19 letter. There are four specific concerns related to his conduct and testimony.
Some of his testimony was absurd and false.
He testified that members of the group had sharpened their fingernails to a point in order to attack officers. The letter details that none of the defendants had sharpened nails on then night of the arrest and outlines MCAO’s struggle with getting McBride to provide additional proof of those allegations.
The letter also heavily focuses on the arrest of Ryder Collins, who was an innocent bystander swept up by Phoenix officers.
In an email, a Phoenix spokesperson said police officials responded to Adel’s letter with a phone call.
“The Phoenix Police Department responded via phone conversation that an independent investigation into the incident in question is currently underway and that specific questions will be addressed once that investigation is complete,” the spokesperson wrote.
In response to ABC15’s reporting, Phoenix has ordered three outside investigations into their protest arrests and responses. Two are being handled by a law firm and the other by a consulting group that specializes in police practices.
The county attorney also hired a retired judge to prove her office’s role in the protest cases.
Officials have not provided an estimate for when any of the outside investigations will be completed.
In response to a further request for comment about Adel's letter, a MCAO spokesperson released the followings statement.
"Concerns about the actions of five officers outlined in the letter does not diminish the work by the majority of officers present that night who insured that people and property in the downtown area were safe. The letter primarily outlines concerns about how information was documented and presented by a small number of officers working that evening.
As stated in the letter, MCAO has not made any credibility determinations about any of the officers referenced in the letter but instead brought them to the attention of Chief Williams so they could be further investigated."
Contact ABC15 Investigator Dave Biscobing at Dave@abc15.com.