Allister Adel, former Maricopa County attorney, dies at 45

Former Maricopa County District Attorney Allister Adel, the first woman elected to the office, died Saturday at the age of 45.

She had resigned from office six weeks ago.

Her husband and family confirmed her death, citing “health complications”.

“This May, we would have celebrated 20 years of marriage. My family and I are deeply heartbroken by this unimaginable loss. We are very proud to call Allister wife and mom,” her husband, David DeNitto, said in a communicated.

Rachel Mitchell, who replaced Adel as county attorney, said in a statement, “I am heartbroken to learn of Allister’s passing. His many years of service to our community leave a legacy that has had an impact on victims of crime, first responders, and animals, to name a few. My thoughts and prayers are with her family, friends, and this community she loved. so much.

Governor Doug Ducey shared the public reaction on Twitter saying, “The hearts and prayers of the people of Arizona go out to Allister’s family, co-workers and close friends. May she rest in peace .”

Adel had resigned from his position on March 21 amid investigations by the Arizona State Bar and the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors into his sobriety and absences from office for weeks.

Taking office with a reform program

The Maricopa County Board of Supervisors appointed Adel as acting county attorney in October 2019 to replace Bill Montgomery, whom Ducey nominated to a seat on the Arizona Supreme Court.

She was the first woman to hold the position and then the first to be elected to the position when she won in November 2020.

Adel came to office with a reform agenda meant to revamp an agency seen by many as too punitive under Montgomery and his predecessor, Andrew Thomas.

She updated pre-trial diversion programs, created a prosecution integrity unit, changed advocacy policies, and created community advisory boards.

Perhaps nothing symbolized his intention to change direction more than his decision in February 2020 to fire Juan Martinez, the office’s notorious death penalty prosecutor, accused of sexual harassment and misconduct.

Martinez handled the nationally watched Jodi Arias murder trial. He then agreed to be disbarred without admitting wrongdoing.

“Any inappropriate behavior, any harassment — in the workplace, sexual or otherwise — will absolutely not be tolerated,” Adel told the Arizona Republic at the time. “Women in the office need to feel safe where they work. They need to know that we care for them, protect them and empower them.

As she moved to update her office’s culture and priorities, she also faced a campaign under pressure against Democrat Julie Gunnigle in 2020 to secure her own four-year term.

Adel won the election but spent the next few days in hospital after emergency surgery for a blood clot in her brain after a fall at home days earlier.

Longtime former Maricopa County prosecutor Rick Romley had mentored and supported Adel earlier in his career.

“I was very saddened to learn of his passing,” he said. “My thoughts and prayers are with her husband, children and family.”

A difficult tenure as county attorney

Adel took over at a time when the Phoenix Police Department, by far the largest law enforcement agency reporting to his sprawling office, was under intense scrutiny for its use of lethal force. Last year, the US Department of Justice launched a civil rights investigation into the department and the city into its policing practices.

It wasn’t long before Adel faced her own questions about her office’s decision to charge 15 Black Lives Matter protesters arrested in 2020 as gang members.

An investigation by former Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Roland Steinle revealed a breakdown in communication between the leadership of the county attorney’s office and the lead prosecutor in the case.

Adel eventually announced that she was dropping the charges against those protesters. The harsh charges have resulted in lawsuits against the county totaling more than $100 million from protesters and the lead prosecutor.

Absences and resignation

Adel checked into a rehabilitation center in August 2021, acknowledging that she was seeking treatment for anxiety, alcohol abuse and an eating disorder.

Concerns about his health and suitability for the office were raised again earlier this year. Five of the top criminal prosecutors in Adel’s office said they had lost faith in her ability to lead and, in a February 14 letter, called on her to resign.

On March 14, The Republic reported that attorneys in his office failed to file 180 misdemeanor cases, which had to be dropped when the statute of limitations expired.

A few days later, Adel announced that she would be stepping down. She was hospitalized on March 25, her last d

First woman elected attorney general

Allister Adel DeNitto was born in Dallas in November 1976 and grew up in Texas.

Her father sacrificed himself to ensure she could attend the prestigious Hockaday School, she said in a 2020 interview with The Republic.

“To the point that he might only have $20 in his pocket and he would give it to me,” she said.

Adel said the school’s four cornerstones were still important to her as an adult: character, civility, scholarship and athleticism.

Seeking to broaden her horizons, Adel left Texas for the University of Arizona, where she earned a degree in political science, with minors in Spanish and criminal justice.

Adel said she knew early on that she wanted to make a difference in the legal field, but didn’t want to become a police officer or a public defender.

She worked in the Maricopa County Superior Court from 1999 to 2001 in criminal court administration. It was then that Adel decided to go to law school with the goal of becoming a prosecutor. She believed the role “is the greatest job a lawyer can have”.

She graduated from Sandra Day O’Connor Law School at Arizona State University in 2004 and joined the Maricopa County District Attorney’s Office which she would later lead.

Adel served as an assistant county prosecutor for seven years, working in the Vehicle Crimes, Gangs and Drug Enforcement bureaus. She said her time as a prosecutor helped her understand how to help victims through the court process.

One of his cases involved a drunk driver who killed Phoenix police officer Shane Figueroa in 2008. The officer’s parents wrote in a letter to the board of supervisors that Adel had become a lifelong friend of the family.

“We believe it was divine direction that brought Allister Adel into our lives at this time,” E. Cory and Jerilyn Figueroa said.

Adel left the prosecution to become the chief administrative law judge for the Arizona Department of Transportation.

She then worked as general counsel for the Arizona Department of Child Safety and executive director of the Maricopa County Bar Association. Adel also had a private business offering consulting services.

Officials offer their condolences

Several officials, including former Gov. Jan Brewer and Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone, shared their condolences on social media.

“I am shocked and devastated to learn that my friend, Allister Adel, passed away earlier today. My heart is broken for her husband and two young children whom she leaves behind,” Brewer said in a tweet. . “Please join me in praying for the family as they grieve during this difficult time.”

Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone said he and his wife were “deeply saddened” by Adel’s passing. “We carry her children, family and friends in our prayers. May she rest in peace,” he wrote on Twitter.

Gunnigle, who is running for Maricopa County prosecutor, also offered his condolences to the DeNitto family “as they come to terms with their loss.”

Mass Liberation Arizona, a civil rights organization that strongly pushed Adel to quit over his involvement in the gangs case against protesters, also offered its condolences on Twitter.

“She lost her life because of the political machine that failed to allow her to attend to her own humanity. This type of preventable death is at the heart of our work,” the organization wrote.

US Senator Kyrsten Sinema echoed her colleagues’ sentiments in a tweet. “I am shocked and saddened to learn of the sudden passing of Allister Adel. Our hearts go out to her family during this incredibly difficult time – may she rest in peace,” Sinema wrote.

US Senator Mark Kelly said in a tweet: “Saddened to hear the tragic news of Allister Adel’s passing. Our thoughts and condolences go out to his loved ones @GabbyGiffords and wish them comfort during this very difficult time. “

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich said in a tweet: “Heartbroken to learn of the passing of our friend Allister Adel. She was not only a wonderful person, but a wife and a loving mother. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family. May she rest in peace.”

Bill Gates, Chairman of the Supervisory Board, tweeted: “I am devastated by the passing of my friend, Allister Adel. I will forever cherish the conversations we shared and hope she was able to find peace in her last days. My thoughts and prayers are with his family and all who loved him.”

Arizona House Democrat Leader Reginald Bolding said in a statement that Adel was “a deeply committed public servant, as well as a loving wife and mother. On behalf of our caucus and staff, I extend our deepest condolences to her husband, children, friends and loved ones at this difficult time. »

Involved in the community

The late Maricopa County District Attorney, Allister Adel.

Adel has also been involved in the non-profit and service communities. She has helped law enforcement first responders and their families as a board member of the 100 Club of Arizona. Adel was also a member of the advisory board for the ASU Public Service Academy.

Adel’s survivors include her husband, David DeNitto, and their two young sons.

Funeral arrangements will be released later, the family said.

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