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Lead Prosecutor From Gang Charges Case Sues Maricopa County Attorney's Office For Defamation

In late May and early June of last year, thousands of Arizonans took to the streets in cities throughout the state, joining others around the country to protest the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer.

In Phoenix, protests stretched for five weeks with demonstrators clashing with Phoenix police on multiple occasions. Many of these clashes culminated in arrests, and a group of 15 protesters were charged with an added “gang designation” — upping the sentencing potential.

The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, headed by County Attorney Allister Adel, claimed with the support of the Phoenix Police Department that these protesters were members of an anti-police gang. The County Attorney’s Office ultimately dropped the gang-designations from the charges.

April Sponsel was the lead prosecutor for Maricopa County in these cases, and she claims that when Adel’s office reversed course on the gang charges, her work had been undermined. When she tried to protest the reversal of charges, she was placed on administrative leave, with pay.

This week, her attorney announced the filing of a notice of claim that she is filing suit against the County Attorney’s Office and is seeking $10 million for defamation.

Perry Vandell is covering the suit for the Arizona Republic. The Show spoke with him to learn more about the timeline of how this situation progressed.

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Steve Goldstein was a host at KJZZ from 1997 to 2022.