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A few years ago I returned to speak at the church that was my first pastorate. The church was celebrating its twenty-fifth anniversary, and it had been more than a decade since I had stood in their pulpit. They welcomed me back with incredible grace and affection, and I was truly glad for the reunion.
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — The cases before a Tucson judge on Wednesday seemed fairly routine: Two men charged with drug offenses asking him to grant them bail.
What stood out, however, was that the two men had a right to a bail hearing in the first place.
Last month, a federal appeals court threw out a 2006 Arizona law denying bail to immigrants in the country illegally.
That cleared the way for the proceedings in Tucson and elsewhere.
Miguel Angel Valenzuela and Juan Angel-Carmona Pineda were arrested on Nov. 13, the same day the Supreme Court let stand the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals' decision to halt enforcement of the law.
Pineda was accused of transporting more than 100 pounds of marijuana. Valenzuela faces charges relating to the alleged possession of a pound of pot.
The judge noted the new rules imposed by the courts as he granted the two men bail, even though he set it so high that they will likely be unable to come up with the money.
"Essentially we have the 9th Circuit decision still standing and the way I view it, it's binding on me," Judge José Luis Castillo said.
Castillo set Valenzuela's bail at $50,000, cash only, and Carmona Pineda's was set at $75,000, also cash only.
Defense attorneys and immigrant advocates who say the law is unconstitutional contend many immigrants who wound up in jail without bond had committed offenses such as using a fake identity to work or carrying small amounts of drugs.
Proposition 100 was passed amid a series of immigration crackdowns in Arizona. It denied bail to immigrants in the country illegally who have been charged with felonies such as shoplifting, aggravated identity theft, sexual assault and murder.
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery has said it protects the public from serious offenders who would not likely show up for court again if let loose.
His spokesman, Jerry Cobb, said the state will continue to defend the law and will file an appeal with the Supreme Court, asking justices to hear the case and make a ruling on the law.
"The nightmare scenario is that the drug cartel sends somebody into the U.S. to commit a hit on somebody and they murder somebody," Cobb said. "And the cartel comes and bails them out because that's nothing, that's chump change for a drug cartel."
Maricopa County Deputy Public Defender Mikel Steinfeld said it's hard to keep track of how many immigrants were held without bond since the law passed because there are several organizations that provide public defense and some immigrants hire private attorneys. He and a colleague estimated that as many as 300 prisoners, possibly more, were affected in Maricopa County.
"I think we're both optimistic that our clients who happen to be illegal immigrants will be treated on a more equitable level with the remainder of clients," Steinfeld said.
In Pima County, defense attorneys say local judges stopped enforcing the law when the appeals court put it on hold a month ago.
Lawyer Margo Cowan, who represented the two men in court in Tucson, has handled the bulk of no-bail cases and says in many instances, judges didn't enforce the rule in the first place because it was too difficult to prove that a defendant was actually residing in the country illegally.
"In Pima County, these judges tend to be very fair and unbiased and evaluate the case for what it is," Cowan said.
But there were exceptions. Judge Castillo noted that until recently, judges in Pima County Justice Court had not been on the same page about whether the no-bail rule was enforceable.
In Maricopa County, judges have been directed to stop enforcing the rule. Cobb estimates that upward of 450 defendants will now clog the courts calendar with hearings seeking bail.
One of the last vestiges of old Tempe will soon disappear. Monti’s La Casa Vieja is closing and artifacts are being sold off. Michael Monti, the son of founder Leonard Monti, sold the property for over $16 million. A high-rise hotel will now tower over the property and questions about the “old house’s” future are unclear.
Maricopa County Sheriff' Office officials say a Gilbert woman has been arrested after allegedly threatening to kill young children who may have been trespassing in her front yard.
A man accused of sexually assaulting a 91-year-old woman in Tempe last month is being held without bond, authorities said Wednesday.
TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — A man accused of sexually assaulting a 91-year-old woman in Tempe last month is being held without bond, authorities said Wednesday.
Ekwunze Job Owen Jr., 24, was taken into custody early Wednesday near the Arizona State University campus, according to Tempe police. He didn't have a lawyer at his initial court appearance, and a public defender was being appointed to his case.
Owen allegedly entered a woman's home last Saturday and then fled when she began screaming for help, police said. It was after the incident that Owen was positively identified as a suspect through DNA, police said.
Tempe Police Cmdr. Kim Hale said Owen allegedly has admitted to some of the crimes, including the October sexual assault.
Owen also is accused of at least three incidents of indecent exposure in Mesa since February 2012.
Police said Owen allegedly left DNA at several crime scenes, and it was matched to the suspect in the sexual assault of the 91-year-old woman on Oct. 18.
Officers with Tempe police, Mesa police and the U.S. Marshals Service worked to track down Owen.
Mesa Police Chief Frank Milstead said at a news conference that during the course of the investigation, authorities realized there was an established pattern and that the suspect was a "serialized criminal" and had been preying upon vulnerable victims.
"This guy was an opportunist," Milstead said. "He knocked doors in the area asking people to use their phone. He tried to befriend people."
The series of incidents began in Mesa in January 2012, and investigators have compiled information about trespassing and indecent exposures since then.
Tempe police say they have arrested the suspect they believe has committed multiple sexual offenses in the Valley.
Tempe police say they have arrested the suspect they believe has committed multiple sexual offenses in the Valley, including the assault of an elderly woman in Tempe.
Only about one in four sexual assaults committed in Arizona is ever solved by police. One attack that hasn’t been solved by police is the brazen and savage attack by an unknown assailant on a 91-year-old woman in one of Tempe’s better neighborhoods.
PHOENIX (AP) — A Phoenix man accused of killing and abusing his infant daughter has pleaded not guilty.
Maricopa County prosecutors say 39-year-old Duryea Dupri Bennett was arraigned Wednesday. His next court date is scheduled for Dec. 17.
Bennett was booked into jail on Oct. 9 on suspicion of first-degree murder and of child abuse.
Authorities received a 911 call the previous day that 1-month-old Natalyah Bennett wasn't breathing.
Phoenix police say paramedics noticed bruising on the baby and hospital personnel also found a skull fracture, broken ribs, bite marks and injuries consistent with a sexual assault.
They say the mother wasn't home and the father was alone with seven children ranging in age from 1 month old to 14 years old.
Police say none of the other children showed signs of abuse.
Authorities for asking for the public's help in identifying a man suspected of committing multiple sexual offenses in the Valley, including the sexual assault of an elderly woman in Tempe.
The Chandler Police Department has released information about a sex offender who recently moved to the city.
PHOENIX (AP) — A 51-year-old Phoenix police officer has been arrested and is accused of pointing a gun at people in another vehicle during a traffic altercation.
Sgt. Trent Crump says Officer Jeremy Sweet was arrested Tuesday night on suspicion of aggravated assault in connection with the Monday afternoon incident.
Crump says the incident occurred while Sweet was on duty and operating an unmarked police vehicle transporting prisoners.
Online court records don't show whether Sweet has an attorney.
PHOENIX (AP) — A sheriff's detention officer shot and killed a jail inmate in Phoenix who slipped out of his restraints, ran away and struggled with another officer over a gun Tuesday, authorities said.
Angel Frescas, 22, died hours after being shot in the head by another detention officer who responded to the scene.
Frescas took off running after being taken to a hospital, Maricopa County Sheriff's officials said. A detention officer caught up with him, and they struggled over the officer's gun.
Another detention officer at the hospital responded to a call for help and fired several shots at Frescas, hitting him twice, said Deputy Joaquin Enriquez, a sheriff's spokesman.
Frescas had been arrested Oct. 14 on suspicion of aggravated assault on a police officer and resisting arrest in a Sept. 18 case, authorities said.
The shooting occurred on a street near the county hospital in central Phoenix, and news video showed a parked black van with bullet holes in its windshield. Residents said they heard several gunshots.
The inmate fled after somehow unfastening handcuffs and leg restraints while he and two other prisoners were unloaded from the van at the hospital, Enriquez said.
While one officer gave chase, a second detention officer helping transport the prisoners took the other two into the hospital and placed them in a holding cell.
Investigators believe Frescas had planned the escape in advance, Enriquez said.
A sheriff's inmate escaped from the same hospital earlier this month as he was taken in for a medical appointment. That inmate ditched his crutches and drove off in a vehicle that a deliveryman had left running. The inmate and stolen car were found elsewhere in Phoenix later that day.
A suspected rapist in Gilbert whose conviction was reversed four years ago now is facing child pornography charges.
TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Pima County authorities say a 29-year-old man has been arrested after three people posed as police officers to gain entry into a Tucson-area home to conduct a home invasion robbery.
The Sheriff's Department says two men and a woman dressed as police entered the home Thursday night, demanding money and drugs.
The two men and two residents began fighting, and the residents were able to detain one of the suspects. The other two intruders left in a dark brown SUV.
The Sheriff's Office says 29-year-old Alberto Herrera was arrested and jailed on suspicion of charges that included burglary, impersonating a peace officer and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon or dangerous instrument.
AVONDALE, Ariz. – Glendale police will be investigating the criminal aspect of an assault on an Avondale officer by a theft suspect that left the officer with injuries.
The suspect, who allegedly stole a city of Avondale truck and led police on a wild pursuit, died after being shot by police.
The officer was taken to a Valley hospital after the suspect crashed the truck into his police cruiser in Avondale Thursday morning. The officer had not been identified as of 8 p.m. Thursday.
Avondale police said 43-year-old Jeremy Bustos of Avondale assaulted a City of Avondale maintenance worker then stole the worker's truck around 9 a.m. near 111th Avenue and Durango Street, prompting a ground and aerial pursuit. After a short chase, crews deployed stop sticks near the same intersection, disabling the truck. Video showed Bustos use the stolen truck to ram the officer's vehicle as the truck careered into a nearby tree. Aerial footage showed emergency crews extricating the officer from his cruiser before he was airlifted from the scene.
He is listed in stable condition.
Other officers were then seen with guns drawn approaching the truck just before Bustos got out and attempted to flee on foot. Avondale police said Bustos pulled out a machete and advanced on officers, prompting them to open fire. Bustos was taken to the hospital where he died from his injuries.
Dorothy Reyes heard the chase from her house. "He went back and forth a few times, I'd say four times, and then all of a sudden he just hit the cop car," Reyes said.
Avondale police Sgt. Brandon Busse said, "We were very lucky that the suspect didn't hit anybody else."
Avondale police asked the Glendale department to take over the criminal aspect of the investigation.
ANTHEM, Ariz. (AP) — Authorities say three Anthem high school students are in custody after an altercation with a campus police officer.
Maricopa County Sheriff's Office spokesman Christopher Hegstrom says a school resource officer at Boulder Creek High School attempted to take a juvenile into custody when two other youths became involved.
Hegstrom says the officer, an off-duty Sheriff's Sergeant, shocked one of the teens with a Taser.
He says two minors were detained at the school while a third was arrested on a street nearby.
Hegstrom says a security guard and one juvenile were injured in the incident.
Two juveniles have been charged with one count each of aggravated assault and disorderly conduct.
The third faces two counts of disorderly conduct.
Hegstrom did not say what motivated the initial detainment.
Three armed suspects are on the loose after a shooting Wednesday in Tempe.
Tempe police say an elderly woman was sexually assaulted in her home Saturday night.
The Chandler Police Department has released information about a sex offender who has moved to the city.
With the USA and coalitions dabbling in some type of skirmish with ISIS terrorists in the Syrian and Iraqi regions, now’s an important time to reflect on the advancement of terrorism and its impact on America’s way of life. Case in point:
Get set for the week’s big and small games alike with eats from these four local restaurants.
PHOENIX (AP) — An Arizona prison teacher has blamed state officials over an attack in which she says she was stabbed and raped by a convicted sex offender she was left alone with in a penitentiary classroom.
Her attorneys filed a lawsuit Tuesday saying the Arizona Department of Corrections failed to provide adequate security and the prison's health care provider didn't properly evaluate the prisoner charged in the assault.
The January attack has raised questions about prison security after reports showed she was put into a room full of inmates with no guards nearby. Authorities say the 20-year-old blamed in the assault had lingered behind after others left the room, then repeatedly stabbed the victim with a pen before raping her.
Arizona's workplace safety agency launched an investigation of prison policy after The Associated Press reported the details in June. The review is ongoing, a Division of Occupational Safety and Health spokeswoman said.
Corrections Director Charles Ryan, who is named in the lawsuit, was not immediately available, but prison officials have said they cannot comment on the lawsuit.
Corrections spokesman Doug Nick has called the attack "a cowardly and despicable crime, for which the inmate is rightfully facing prosecution."
He says the safety of all staffers is the department's "paramount priority, and we have reached out to the victim to offer our full assistance and support."
The lawsuit filed in Pinal County Superior Court doesn't seek specific damages. In a precursor July legal claim, attorney Scott Zwillinger asked for $4 million and wrote that the state could lose $10 million if the case went to trial.
Nick has said previously that "the department vigorously disputes allegations made in the employee's claim against the state, and new allegations being made to the media."
The lawsuit says Corizon Health, the state prison system's health care provider, improperly assessed Harvey's mental health. The lawsuit said that led prison officials to classify him as a relatively low-risk offender, allowing him access to the classroom. A Corizon spokeswoman said she could not immediately comment Tuesday.
In an AP interview, the 34-year-old teacher said she mainly blames Ryan, who she says allowed lax training, staffing shortages and poor security at the Eyman prison in Florence, south of Phoenix. The AP does not identify those who say they are victims of sexual assault.
Jacob Harvey, 20, has pleaded not guilty to charges of sexual assault, kidnapping and aggravated assault in the case. His lawyer has declined comment on the case.
At the time of the attack, Harvey was being held in a unit that holds about 1,300 rapists, child molesters and other sex offenders.
He was in the first year of a 30-year sentence after being convicted of raping a Glendale woman in 2011. Prosecutors said Harvey, who was 17 at the time, knocked on a woman's door asked for a drink of water, then pushed his way in and repeatedly forced himself on the victim, whose 2-year-old child was in the apartment at the time.
The prison teacher also describes a violent attack and says the department left her vulnerable and unprepared for it.
"I remember trying to fight him off," she said. "The only thing I remembered from self-defense was to tuck my head so he would not choke me."
She said she also remembers getting stabbed, screaming and being unable to activate a panic button on her two-way radio.
She said she had received only four hours of self-defense training before being placed in classrooms, which guards did not regularly monitor, despite regulations calling for three checks each hour.
During the interview, she said radios were prone to battery problems and in short supply. If one wasn't available, she'd be pressured to hold class anyway, she said.
The teacher says she feels traumatized by the attack.
"There's times where I think I'm doing good," she said. "Then I just come crashing down. I haven't been sleeping well."