There was not just one gang protest case.
In addition to filing criminal charges against a group of police protesters, the Maricopa County Prosecutor made similar allegations in another protest.
The additional allegations, which have since been withdrawn under mounting public pressure, raise questions about whether prosecutors are expanding a strategy of labeling protesters as gang members to increase potential prison terms and enforce plea agreements.
“It’s a way to make charges even more frightening than they already were,” said Armando Nava, a defense attorney whose client has been classified by the MCAO as a member of an unidentified gang. “It was something that we were amazed by because there was no evidence of gang activity. So we were all shocked. “
Unlike the group indictment brought against a group after an arrest on October 17, the MCAO filed special motions known as penalties against four defendants in a separate protest process.
The individual case concerns protest arrests on two different dates – one in August and one in early October.
In principle, the official gang allegations can be used to tighten penalties – even for minor crimes – in order to determine the prison sentence.
Assistant District Attorney Nicholas Michaud filed the applications on January 19 and withdrew them on February 17.
“The filing of this allegation was unintentional and the state has no intention of bringing this allegation against this defendant,” wrote Michaud in his retreat.
Several defense attorneys involved in various protest prosecutions told ABC15 it was hard to believe.
“It seems strange given the timing of everything,” said Nava. “This is something that a prosecutor had to sign his name and submit to the court. It seems a bit strange that this was accidentally. “
The Maricopa Prosecutor’s Office did not answer specific questions about the filings and issued a brief statement: “This was a typo that has been corrected.”
Michaud’s first petition simply states: “The crimes of all kinds charged in the indictment were committed with the intention of promoting, promoting or promoting criminal behavior by a criminal street gang.”
He did not provide any information about which gang the four defendants were accused of being a part of.
Despite multiple requests to prosecutors, Nava and other defense lawyers said no information was provided.
Some lawyers questioned whether the MCAO claimed Black Lives Matter was a gang. Some of the four defendants are organizers of BLM organizations.
“That’s right,” said Nava. “My client was specifically mentioned as an organizer in police reports and was told she was one of the people they wanted.”
In the month between filing and withdrawing applications, ABC15 aired a series of investigative reports detailing how Phoenix police and prosecutors used dubious allegations, gross exaggerations and lies to arrest and prosecute protesters.
The series initially focused on the group of protesters who carried umbrellas and received criminal charges against street gangs.
Under immense public pressure and growing signs of wrongdoing and bias, District Attorney Allister Adel dismissed the case in a nightly announcement on Friday, February 12.
Adel alleged the case was not properly examined before the charges were brought before a grand jury.
Adel had previously defended the case several times in public statements.
Editor’s Note: This report is part of an ongoing series of ABC15 investigative reports entitled “Politically Charged”. The series can be found at abc15.com/protests. Contact ABC15 Investigator Dave Biscobing at Dave@ABC15.com.