Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel Resigns Amid Scandals, Public Inquiry

Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel will resign after mounting pressure in recent months and questions about her ability to serve as the county’s top prosecutor.

Adel announced her departure on Monday in a press release. She gave few reasons for her departure and simply said her last day would be Friday.

But during Adel’s tenure, the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office was plagued with scandal — from the false gang charges the office filed against Black Lives Matter protesters, which were eventually dropped last year, to serious questions about Adel’s sobriety.

Adel was appointed attorney general in October 2019, filling the vacancy left by her predecessor, Bill Montgomery, after he was appointed to the Arizona Supreme Court.

Adel won her seat back in November 2020, after a bitter campaign against challenger Julie Gunnigle. Gunnigle had positioned himself as the more progressive candidate, aiming to alleviate racial and economic inequalities in prosecutions in Maricopa County.

But Adel defeated Gunnigle by just two percentage points to become the first woman to be elected attorney general.

The scandals started quickly.

In 2020, MCAO prosecutors filed gang charges against 15 people arrested while demonstrating in the center. The fictional “ACAB gang” has since sparked numerous lawsuits, internal investigations and widespread condemnation of the office’s handling of the case.

And since last fall, Adel has been criticized for her own ability to run the office. In September, she announced that she was taking time off to receive treatment for alcohol abuse and an eating disorder. Adel waited nearly two weeks to inform the public that she was in rehab, and did so only, it seemed, at the urging of Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone.

In February, the Republic of Arizona published a report detailing concerns within the office that Adel had been out of the office for an extended period of time and had even called an employee while intoxicated.

Perhaps the nail in the coffin, however, was the recent revelation that MCAO had failed to charge individuals in 180 criminal cases before the statute of limitations expired. The office had to drop all 180 cases.

Since then, Adel has faced calls from top prosecutors in her office to resign, and was reprimanded by Governor Doug Ducey.

Adel has also faced a recall campaign — “Resign or Be Recalled” — by advocacy group Mass Liberation since the fall. That campaign, the group has emphasized, was spurred on by civil rights concerns surrounding the agency’s handling of prosecutions.

But it wasn’t until March 8 that Adel was emphatic that she would not resign, telling host Ted Simons in an interview with local PBS station KAET that she had no intention of leaving office.

That changed on Monday.

“I am confident that the important mission of the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office will continue,” Adel wrote in the press release. “My dedication and service to my community doesn’t end here.”

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