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MCAO reviewing all past cases of embattled protest prosecutor

Posted at 7:06 PM, Sep 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-09-26 22:06:21-04

The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office is reviewing all of the past cases of the primary prosecutor who worked with Phoenix Police to falsely charge protesters last year.

During an interview with ABC15, County Attorney Allister Adel said the office is inspecting all of April Sponsel’s convictions.

“We have assigned Rachel Mitchell from our Prosecution Integrity Unit to go through every single one of April Sponsel’s cases,” Adel said.

The case review began in May, a spokesperson clarified later. Mitchell is looking at “appropriateness of charging, plea offers, and other various factors.”

RELATED: County Attorney declines to answer protest questions during interview

Sponsel was specifically assigned to prosecute dozens of protest cases in 2020.

ABC15’s Politically Charged investigation found many of the cases were riddled with lies, exaggerations and made-up evidence.

The most egregious example: Sponsel and Phoenix Sgt. Doug McBride told a grand jury that a group of protesters was a gang comparable to the Bloods, Crips, and Hells Angels.

“We are making sure we are taking appropriate steps to make sure something like this doesn’t happen again,” Adel said. “I’m fully committed to that.”

Throughout 2021, the county attorney declined ABC15’s interview requests to discuss the protest cases.

Adel finally granted a 12-minute interview on Thursday, but she declined to answer any questions about what she knew about the plan to charge protesters as a gang.

In legal claims, Sponsel said Adel is making her out to be a “scapegoat.”

The prosecutor also said the county attorney is purposefully lying to blame her as a rogue prosecutor. ABC15 discovered the decision to charge protesters as gang members was approved and known at the highest levels, including three Phoenix police assistant chiefs, and MCAO executive members.

Sponsel was hand-picked to join MCAO’s First Responders Bureau. The FRB is a special unit created by Adel when she was appointed to the office in late 2019.

An outside investigation into the protest scandal found that the FRB has too strong of an “affinity” for law enforcement.

As a result, the FRB’s bias causes prosecutors to just go along with police officers’ accounts without verifying if their information or evidence is true.

During Thursday’s brief interview, ABC15 did not get to clarify whether Adel also planned to have her office review the FRB’s past cases.

ABC15 sent a follow-up question to MCAO on Friday.

A spokesperson responded with additional information about the review of Sponsel’s cases but did not answer whether or not MCAO is reviewing the FRB’s past prosecutions.

The office is not further reviewing past cases involving McBride.

Sgt. Doug McBride has been placed on the so-called “Brady” list, a repository of officers who have histories of dishonesty, crimes, and other integrity concerns.

Watch the full interview below:

County Attorney Allister Adel declines to answer protest questions during interview

Contact ABC15 Investigator Dave Biscobing at