MCAO plans to permanently dismiss all charges against protesters accused of being gang members

PHOENIX — The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office plans to permanently dismiss all charges in the criminal case against more than a dozen protesters who were falsely accused of being a criminal street gang, according to multiple defense attorneys.

A county spokesperson said they couldn’t comment on the case until official motions were filed.

The case had been previously dismissed without prejudice — meaning prosecutors could re-file charges — following an ABC15 investigation into the protesters’ arrests on Oct.17, 2020. MCAO had repeatedly told the court they wanted that option.

POLITICALLY CHARGED: ABC15 investigates protest prosecutions

But Judge Jennifer Ryan-Touhill had recently dismissed the gang charges with prejudice in a scathing ruling last week that called out officials for their “absurd,” “baffling,” and “disingenuous” conduct.

On Friday, defense attorneys and prosecutors were scheduled to have oral arguments in front of the same judge to discuss whether other charges in the case should be permanently dismissed.

ABC15 has spent months exposing a series of exaggerations, lies, and dubious evidence in protest cases brought by Phoenix police and county prosecutors throughout 2020.

In the gang case, Phoenix Sgt. Doug McBride and MCAO prosecutor April Sponsel told a grand jury that the group could be compared to notorious gangs like the Bloods, Crips, and Hells Angels, court records show.

The officials also testified that the protesters met the definition of a criminal street gang for three reasons: They wore mostly black, they carried umbrellas, and they chanted “All Cops are Bastards.”

For that, police and prosecutors designated them as the “ACAB” gang.

The judge’s order called the testimony “clearly false, misleading, and inflammatory.”

“This Court cannot begin to fathom how co-defendants wearing the color black—especially at a time when people protested that Black Lives Matter and wore black clothing—proved membership in a gang,” according to the order. “Compounding the Court’s bafflement is the analogy then given to the grand jury about colors chosen by the Crips and the Bloods—two well-known, well-documented, and feared gangs.”

All charges, including the gang counts, were dismissed without prejudice a week after ABC15 published a copy of the grand jury transcript in February.

ABC15 will continue to bring you any updates to this story.

Contact ABC15 Investigator Dave Biscobing at

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