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Guest opinion

Everlove: Next Pima County attorney can't be product of previous failed policies

'Laura Conover is the reform candidate'

In his July 5, 2020, candidate commentary, Jonathan Mosher points out the obvious – our criminal justice system is broken and in need of immediate and dramatic reform. He goes on to lay out an equally obvious "judicial reform package," breathlessly expounding on how he would implement these reforms his first day on the job.

What Mosher fails to discuss is that these proposed reforms are not new, and are not his. They are reforms that have been advanced and championed for decades by those who have dedicated their careers to progressive criminal justice reform. Mosher has not been one of those people. What is also missing from his commentary is the fact Mosher has been "on the job" for 15 years, rising through the ranks to his current position of chief criminal deputy. Before becoming a prosecutor, Mosher worked for the California office of a large corporate firm where, in his own words, he "defended Lockheed Martin and other massive corporations from environmental lawsuits brought by Erin Brockovich and her, literally, the same group of lawyers from the movie, and I felt really good about it."

While Mosher has been on the job, the Pima County Attorney's Office headed by Barbara LaWall has consistently resisted meaningful criminal justice reform, exacerbating the mass incarceration that exists in this state. It has cultivated a well-earned and much criticized reputation for overly aggressive enforcement of low-level crimes, and for pursuing felony prosecutions of non-violent offenders. These policies have fed the school-to-prison pipeline, destabilized families, and made the people of Pima County less safe. Within the last week, LaWall has vigorously criticized the state-wide ballot initiative "Second Chances, Rehabilitation and Public Safety Act". That initiative, if passed in November, would allow people imprisoned for non-dangerous offenses to be released after serving 50 percent of their time.

Let's be clear, Mr. Mosher is Ms. LaWall's endorsed and chosen successor. Although he recently indicated his support of the Second Chances Act, he can point to no efforts he has made over the last 15 years to suggest, let alone to advance or implement, any systemic changes to our broken criminal justice system. Mosher publicly advocated for LaWall's reelection four years ago and although his newly voiced commitment to criminal justice reform is welcome, it appears to have only emerged with his candidacy for office.

In addition to LaWall, Mosher is emphatically endorsed by Republican mega-donor Jim Click, who has made the maximum contribution to his campaign-a fact that should trouble anyone who supports progressive reform and accountability.

In contrast we have in another candidate, Laura Conover, a woman whose entire career has been shaped by the desire to change a failed system. She began formally advocating against the death penalty as a teenager and has promised that as county attorney, not another dime of that office's resources will be squandered pursuing a sentence that provides no deterrence to crime and no closure for its victims.

Additionally she will stop the current emphasis on prosecuting victimless and low-level crimes. By doing so she will free up the time and talent of the deputy attorneys to effectively deal with taking violent criminals off the streets. This shift in vision proposed by Conover includes reinstating the County Attorney's Fraud Division and taking an active role in enforcing environmental protections.

Over the past 15 years, Conover served as both a county and federal public defender, and in private practice has acted as a tireless advocate for crime victims and their families. She has worked with companies to help people transition from prison to the workforce and two years ago was appointed by federal judges under the "Criminal Justice Act" to represent and manage more than 400 contract attorneys appearing before the federal bench.

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She is committed to working with the law enforcement community to develop and deploy policies and practices that respond to the needs of our citizens and that unflinchingly recognize and address racial disparities and police misconduct. This includes the appointment of an independent prosecutor who will have the legal authority to investigate claims of misconduct and prosecute police officers for breaking the law.

As recent events have clearly shown, our country, our county, is desperately in need of and demanding long-overdue criminal justice reform. Now more than ever we must elect the right person to the office of Pima County attorney. That person cannot be a product of the same failed policies that got us to this point in the first place. That person must be deeply and historically committed to change, unafraid to challenge the status quo, and willing to fight for all the citizens of Pima County, not because it is politically expedient, but because it is, and always has been, the right thing to do.

To quote a profoundly observant American, "When people show you who they are, believe them the first time." - Maya Angelou.

Annette Everlove is a retired Tucson attorney.

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Latest comments on this storyRead all 4 »

Jul 23, 2020, 1:06 pm
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Jonathon Mosher was a registered Republican in Coconino County.  He was brought to Tucson by Barbara LaWall to protect the sordid secrets of corruption and misconduct occurring throughout the 40 years under the Neely/Lawall dynasty.

Neely wrote a response to your recent piece on the county attorney election in which he supported Mosher.  Here’s a question:  Why would a man who went to New Zealand just long enough to allow the statute of limitations to expire care about who becomes Pima County Attorney?  Just sayin’

Jul 19, 2020, 12:41 pm
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There are reasons Arizona has the highest incarceration rate of any state in a country with the highest incarceration rate in the world: the County Attorneys in Maricopa and Pima.

Sentencing people to decades in prison should be extremely rare.  40,000 people in prison is about 35,000 too many.

Way past time for changes in these two offices.

Jul 17, 2020, 3:55 pm
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My name is Steve Neely. I was hired by Bill Schafer as a Deputy County Attorney in 1968. I was Pima County Attorney from 1976-1996. I dont know any of the candidates, although I was introduced to Mr. Mosher in passing some years ago.

For more than 50 years criminal defense lawyers have tried off and on to take over the County Attorney’s Office. Their aim has not been to promote public safety by conscientious prosecution. This year is just the latest effort, but the song never changes - “victimless crimes and non-violent offenders” are filling our prisons. It was nonsense then and it’s nonsense now. Mandatory sentences apply to violent and/or repetitive offenders and drug dealers. Judges rarely if ever sentence anyone else to prison.

As for prosecuting drug cases, well Pima County is virtually a border county. There are lots of drug cases. The police can’t ignore them and neither can the County Attorney if the oath of office means anything. The good news is they can be handled expediently through plea bargaining with few resources expended on individual cases, but they should be handled, not ignored. I have never heard of a prosecutor’s office de-emphasizing prosecution of violent and repetitive crimes to pursue piddling drug cases and I doubt that Laura Conover and her surrogates have either.

Let’s look at accountability and “independent prosecutors” to review police misconduct. Seriously? Elected County Attorneys are accountable to their constituents. Who is an “independent” prosecutor accountable to? Really! Does “independent” not mean what it has always meant?

Being County Attorney used to be about enforcing the law with the best interests of the community in mind with scrupulous honesty and managing a budget of tens of millions and hundreds of employees many of whom are lawyers. Hopefully it still is,  not about sloganeering, spinning statistics and amateurish solutions.

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