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Sunday, July 22, 2018

Former Counsel to Gov. Napolitano Eyes County Attorney Seat

When Tim Nelson formally launched his campaign for Maricopa County Attorney on May 8, he did so stressing one primary theme – public safety.

A major reason for his concern is records from the County Public Defender’s office that show jury trial conviction rates declining under current County Attorney Andrew Thomas.

“In 2007, 31.5 percent of indigent criminal defendants were getting acquitted on every single charge – walking out free,” he said. “We are less safe; he’s not putting public safety first.”

In 2004 before Thomas took office, the county lost less than 20 percent of jury trials.

When acquittals occur, the money and time used to prosecute are wasted, Nelson stressed. In addition, victims don’t see justice and criminals remain on the streets.

Nelson points to an inability to attract attorneys from the public sector as one reason for the decline in convictions. In addition, he says Thomas cut the office’s training program to help fund an increase in spending on outside lawyers.

“Now he’s recruiting kids out of school, but he doesn’t have a training program so they’re going into court unprepared,” said Nelson, who has practiced law for 20 years and previously served as general counsel to Gov. Janet Napolitano.

Nelson also points to immigration as an issue that’s affecting public safety. Instead of targeting and arresting individuals, he believes more emphasis should be placed on the organized crime syndicates.

Focusing on individuals plays right into the hands of the organized criminals, he says.

“All we’re doing by arresting individual smugglees is giving them [the “coyotes”] more reason to up their prices, and we’re giving them more power behind their threats of what they’ll do if their ransom isn’t paid,” Nelson said.

Because of their effect on businesses and property values, street gangs are another issue Nelson views as needing more attention. In addition to the violent offenses they commit, he says appropriate steps – including those within the court system – must be taken to ensure gang members are prosecuted for property crimes.

His reasoning behind targeting property crimes is the trickle-down effect the offenses have on other aspects of the community, including schools.
During the Sept. 2 primary, Nelson will face Gerald Richard, former director of the administrative support division at the Phoenix Police Department, for the right to go against Thomas in the Nov. 4 general election.
“My message to Democrats is that it’s really important we elect someone in September who is capable of winning in November,” said Nelson, whose endorsements include the Arizona Conference of Police and Sheriffs, Napolitano and former U.S. Attorney Jose Rivera.


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