Maricopa County making policy changes for gun violence cases

Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell is creating harsher penalties for crooks who used a firearm in a crime to crack down on gun violence.
Published: Sep. 1, 2022 at 7:01 PM MST
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PHOENIX (AP) -- In an effort to reduce gun violence, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office is making some policy changes to hold criminals more accountable. Beginning Friday, prosecutors in the state’s largest county will have to offer plea deals to defendants that include a prison sentence if their crime involved using a firearm.

The firearm had to be actively used to facilitate a crime, and the policy won’t apply to defendants who were simply in possession of a gun when the crime was committed. County Attorney Rachel Mitchell says her office received submittals for 16 homicide cases within 10 days last month, and 15 of those cases involved a gun.

Mitchell spoke about the new policy changes when referring to former state prison director Charles Ryan, who was indicted on felony charges after an armed standoff with police at his Tempe home. Arizona’s Family asked Mitchell if her office would be seeking prison time for Ryan. “That’s an ongoing case. It wouldn’t be appropriate for me to comment on that under the policy but it does apply to the higher level of felonies,” she replied.

Democrat Julie Gunnigle, who is running against Mitchell this November, criticized the new mandate. “So a policy like this isn’t going to reduce harm in our communities. What it is going to do is cost the taxpayers thousands upon thousands of dollars,” Gunnigle said.

Mitchell and her office are still looking to crack down on gun crimes after the uptick of shootings in the Valley. “I was given the responsibility when I was appointed county attorney for these seven months and I’m going to be the county attorney that keeps this community safe regardless of politics,” she said.

Arizona’s Family News Staff contributed to this report.