Former Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel dies at the age of 45
May 2, 2022
Former Maricopa County Attorney Allister Adel has passed away at the age of 45. Adel died Saturday, April 30, from “health complications,” according to a statement released by a family spokesperson.
“On behalf of the DeNitto family, we are deeply saddened to announce that Allister Adel DeNitto passed away this morning due to health complications. She was born on November 11, 1976, in Dallas, Texas. She is survived by her husband and two children.”
“This May we would have celebrated 20 years of marriage. My family and I are utterly heartbroken by this unimaginable loss. We are so very proud to call Allister wife and mom,” said her husband, David DeNitto, in a statement. “We are asking that the press and the public honor her, her legacy, and our family by respecting our privacy at this difficult time,” he concluded.
Adel is survived by her husband and two children. Funeral arrangements have not yet been announced.
ALLISTER ADEL’S HISTORY
Allister Adel made history in 2019 when she became the county’s first female chief prosecutor. She replaced Bill Montgomery after he resigned from office. She was sworn in Oct. 3, 2019, after a unanimous vote of the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. At the time, Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Gates stated: “She is an excellent attorney and community leader, as well as an experienced administrator. I am confident in her ability to lead the office and I’m proud we appointed the first-ever female Maricopa County Attorney.”
After being sworn in, Adel spoke of representing diverse interests in the criminal justice system. “To our victims, we are here to protect your rights. We are here to do justice and do what is fair,” she said in a statement. “To our community leaders and community groups, we hear your strong voice, and I am here to listen. To our law enforcement officers, you are not walking alone. We stand beside you.”
CONTROVERSY SOON FOLLOWED
There has been no shortage of controversy during Adel’s time in office. On election night in 2020, Adel took a fall in her home, and had to be rushed to the hospital. She underwent emergency surgery to stop a brain bleed.
Rumors later began to swirl about her alleged struggles with alcohol and addiction. She then announced she was entering rehab to deal with “unhealthy coping behaviors, including an eating disorder and alcohol use.”
Adel has recently faced heavy criticism following a report that the Maricopa County Attorney’s office dropped 180 misdemeanor criminal cases because charges were not filed on time. Those cases involved drunk driving, assault, and domestic violence. But since they were not assigned within a year of the alleged crimes, they were dropped and can not be prosecuted in the future.
Earlier this year, five top prosecutors called for Adel’s resignation, voicing concerns about her sobriety, work absences, and judgment. The prosecutors stated those concerns in a three-page letter, which they sent to the State Bar of Arizona and the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors. In the letter, Adel’s top deputies alleged she had shown up drunk on the job and had sporadic attendance in the office.
In a March 8, 2022 interview with Ted Simons on Arizona Horizon, Adel said that she had no plans to resign, and she denied the claims made against her. “They are absolutely false. I take my job duty very, very, very seriously. So those are absolutely false, and I welcome the State Bar’s investigation. In fact, I understand their process because prior to this position, I actually served on the State Bar’s ethics committee and the State Bar’s professionalism committee. So, they have a duty to investigate, and I look forward to their investigation and cooperating fully with them,” said Adel in the interview.
ADEL TALKS CANDIDLY WITH TED SIMONS ON ARIZONA HORIZON
On Tuesday, March 8, Allister Adel came to the PBS studios and sat down for a one-on-one conversation with Ted Simons on the Arizona Horizon show. They talked about the claims that she’s lost the trust and confidence of her staff and the public.
SIMONS: You were treated for alcohol use disorders. Are you still in treatment?
ADEL: You’re always in treatment; you’re always in recovery. It’s a lifelong journey. But I’m proud to say that I’m working my program.
SIMONS: Your treatment, your disorders, how have they affected your job?
ADEL: It hasn’t affected my job performance. I take my job duty very, very seriously.
SIMONS: Why so many absences, why for so long?
ADEL: The timeframe around that, it was right around Thanksgiving and Christmas, and family obligations related to Christmas. On top of that, my entire family got COVID, and not at the same time. And so that took me away quite a bit in January, but I was always available on the phone, through videoconferencing, and I was available despite the fact that I wasn’t always there.
SIMONS: In their letter urging you to resign, prosecutors said there were “obvious signs of impairment” on the job. Are they wrong?
ADEL: They are very wrong. I’d love to see what they’re talking about. No one has shown me anything, and I’d love for them to point at it because I haven’t been. It’s tough to prove a negative, you know?
SIMONS: What about a leave of absence?
ADEL: I did. I took time to take care of myself when I sought treatment, to get myself on a good path, and I’m back and I’m healthy, and there’s no need for that at this point because I’m working my program.” Adel said. “I will not be taking a leave of absence; I’ll be doing the job I was elected to do.”
Adel reiterated that she was not going to resign from her position as County Attorney, an elected position from which there are few ways to remove an incumbent prior to an election. However, just a short time later, she did, in fact, resign.
ADEL ANNOUNCES RESIGNATION
Adel announced on March 21 that she was stepping down. She did not give an official reason for her resignation.
“I am proud of the many accomplishments of the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office during my tenure,” she said during her resignation announcement. “Voters supported me in November 2020 as the first woman elected to be Maricopa County Attorney, and it is an honor I will always cherish.
RACHEL MITCHELL STEPS IN
Following Adel’s resignation, Rachel Mitchell was appointed to take over the County Attorney position.
Mitchell joined us on Arizona Horizon just days ago to talk about the appointment. “I think the Board of Supervisors has seen what has happened with the County Attorney’s office and how it has lost public faith over the last two years,” Mitchell told Ted Simons. “I think what they were looking for was someone who could step in immediately and run the office and just hit the ground running to restore the faith with the community and with law enforcement victims.”
According to Mitchell, the office Adel left was in disarray, facing a charging backlog, a slowed-down review of officer-involved shootings, a shortage of personnel and other critical issues. Mitchell told us she believes she is well-equipped to bring stability to the office. “One of the benefits, and one of the things that the board of supervisors considered, is that I’m a known person in that office. I’ve been at really every leadership level in that office, and I have a good supervisory ability. I think that brought a sense of calm,” Mitchell said to Simons during their interview last week.
Mitchell told us she believes she can do the job. “There are people in our community who are very dangerous, and they need to suffer harsh consequences and they need to be held accountable. On the other hand, there are people who have problems that need to be addressed and need to be lifted up, not crushed down,” Mitchell told Simons. “One of the things in my background is looking at research to talk about risk of people, and reoffence levels, and knowing the difference between various people.”
REACTION TO ADEL’S DEATH
Reaction to Adel’s shocking death quickly began to pour in from lawmakers and community leaders across Arizona.
- Doug Ducey tweeted: “How very tragic. The hearts and prayers of Arizonans are with Allister’s family, colleagues and close friends. May she Rest in Peace.”
- Former Arizona Governor Jan Brewer also expressed her condolences: “I’m 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 that she leaves behind. Please join me in praying for the family as they grieve during this difficult time. RIP Allister.”
- Mark Kelly tweeted: “Saddened to hear the tragic news of Allister Adel’s passing. Our thoughts and condolences are with her loved ones. @GabbyGiffords and I wish them comfort during this very difficult time.”
- And Sen. Kyrsten Sinema tweeted: “I’m shocked and saddened to learn of Allister Adel’s sudden passing. Our thoughts are with her family during this incredibly difficult time — may she rest in peace.”
- Attorney General Mark Brnovich expressed his condolences on Twitter: “I’m absolutely heartbroken to hear about the passing of our friend Allister Adel. She was not only a wonderful person but a loving wife and mother. Our thoughts and prayers are with her family. May she Rest in Peace.”
- The new County Attorney Rachel Mitchell also shared these thoughts: “I’m heartbroken to learn of Allister’s passing. Her many years of service to our community leaves a legacy that impacted crime victims, first responders and animals, just to name a few. My thoughts & prayers are with her family, friends, & this community that she so dearly loved.”
- And Maricopa County Board of Supervisors chairman Bill Gates also issued a statement on Twitter: “I’m devastated by the passing of my friend, Allister Adel. I will forever cherish the conversations we shared & hope she was able to find peace in her final days. My thoughts & prayers are with her family & all who loved her.”