Attorney questions oversight after Maricopa County Attorney’s Office drops charges

In 2019, a DUI charge was dropped after they ran out of time to file the charges.
Published: Mar. 18, 2022 at 8:45 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) – The 180 cases dropped by the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office are not the firsts. In 2019, a DUI charge was dropped after they ran out of time to file the charges.

Audri Dillard and Jesel Torres and their dog were killed in October 2018 when an accused drunk driver collided with their vehicle. A year later, MCAO met with their families and told them the manslaughter charge would be dropped due to lack of evidence.

“Then I said, well what about the DUI charges? And their heads went down, and they said, ‘we forgot to charge that on time.’ And jaws just dropped,” said Scott Palumbo, a catastrophic injury attorney representing Dillard’s family.

In November 2019, MCAO took full responsibility. “There’s a one-year statute of limitations on DUIs, and he was not charged with that either. That was due to a gross oversight of our office,” said former MCAO spokesperson Jennifer Liewer in 2019.

“It was a gross oversight; we will fix it, we will put policies and procedures in place.’ Because I thought it’s never supposed to happen. I thought we agreed it was never supposed to happen. But it happened 180 times,” Palumbo said.

At the time, Allister Adel had only been in office for one month. Palumbo said he tried to give her the benefit of the doubt. However, her office has dropped 180 misdemeanor criminal cases because charges were not filed on time.

“It’s unconscionable; it’s indefensible. I hurt because I know how much it hurt my one client. Now to know there’s hundreds, maybe, other people out there — victims,” he said.

Palumbo says he wants to know if changes were ever made after his 2019 case, as promised. “When somebody doesn’t do their job in the justice system, that needs to be addressed. It can’t just be ‘oops, I’m sorry,’” said Palumbo.

After our story aired in 2019, MCAO did file new charges of endangerment in the case. The suspect pled guilty and is currently serving a one-year sentence.

On Friday, Attorney General Mark Brnovich sent a letter to MCAO requesting a complete report on the dropped cases delivered to him by March 31st. He says the report should include who is responsible for making sure cases are filed, a thorough explanation of why they were not filed, and what’s being done to fix the issue going forward.

MCAO did not respond to Arizona’s Family for a comment.