PHOENIX — The Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office has agreed to handle an outside criminal investigation into a handful of Phoenix police officers tied to corrupted protest arrests and prosecutions.
The case, which is ongoing, was assigned to MCSO detectives in November, according to a City of Phoenix spokesperson.
Phoenix struggled to find an outside agency to investigate its officers for testimony and written reports that were flagged by prosecutors following an ABC15 series of reports that exposed widespread exaggerations and lies in protest cases.
The Arizona Attorney General’s Office and the Tucson Police Department both turned down the city’s request to look at the matter, citing either a lack of jurisdiction or resources.
Given the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office’s role in bringing false charges against protesters, any prosecutorial decisions in the case will be handled by the Pinal County Attorney’s Office, officials said.
ABC15 launched its “Politically Charged” investigation in February.
As a result, nearly 40 felony protest cases were dismissed. In the most egregious case, police and prosecutors colluded to create a fictional gang and then charge protesters as members.
Phoenix ordered an outside investigation to be conducted by the Ballard Spahr law firm. The firm’s final report confirmed ABC15’s reporting and recommended that the city have an outside police agency conduct a criminal probe of five officers' involvement in the cases.
The officers: Sgt. Doug McBride, Sgt. James Groat, Officer Jeffrey Raymond, Officer Alexander Volk, and Officer Joseph Crowley.
The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office is also still conducting an internal investigation into the main prosecutor, April Sponsel, who brought the initial cases against protesters.
The internal probe is still ongoing and officials said they do not have an estimated date of completion.
Contact ABC15 Investigator Dave Biscobing at Dave@ABC15.com.