APAAC Award Winners

 

     
 

2016 Support Staff Person of the Year
Misty Price
Executive Assistant

Misty Price is a consummate professional and the "backbone" of the Gila County Attorney's Office.  Misty has been employed with GCAO since 2002, and is currently the Executive Administrative Assistant to the County Attorney.  While Misty does an excellent job managing the day-to-day operations of the office, she excels in the courtroom where she takes copious notes during criminal trials.  In fact, Misty's notes are so accurate and detailed that prosecutors frequently ask to review them before cross examining defense witnesses.  A common practice among DCAs in our office is to ask Misty for a copy of her notes prior to putting the finishing touches on their closing arguments.  In 2015, Misty helped get justice in two of the most significant homicide cases in the history of Gila County.  In both cases Misty played a significant role in the prosecution and her adept note-taking helped the assigned DCA fashion effective and persuasive closing arguments.  Misty is an asset not only to our office and our community, but to the entire criminal justice system.

 

2017 Felony Prosecutor of the Year
(Small Jurisdiction)
Scott Bennett
Deputy County Attorney
Graham County Attorney's Office

Scott Bennett is an awesome prosecutor and an even better person! Scott carries a very heavy load and is a leader in our office.  Scott goes above his requested assignments by creating unity and is the consummate team player.  Scott is always willing to take on the most difficult cases and is the first person to help any prosecutor.  He is currently handling all of our very large sex and homicide cases.  Scott has obtained a conviction in every serious case he has prosecuted for our office.  One of Scott’s most amazing attributes is his ability to obtain convictions under extremely difficult circumstances.  Scott recently sent four different defendants to prison for a combined total of 155 years, making the streets of Arizona considerably safer to walk.

     
 

2017 Felony Prosecutors of the Year
(Large Jurisdiction)
Scott Blake

Assistant Attorney General
Arizona Attorney General's Office

Scott Blake is an accomplished prosecutor whose caseload involves complex and high profile cases. In the past year, Scott has completed three high profile trials.  Scott obtained a guilty verdict in State v. Zeitner, a lengthy trial involving Zeitner faking cancer to obtain AHCCCS’s payment for a pregnancy termination.  Scott also obtained a guilty verdict in State v. Nolte, which involved the defendant stealing over $500,000 in 1997 before assuming another person’s identity and fleeing the country.  Nolte was sentenced to 9.25 years in prison.  Scott returned to trial in a fraud case involving Zeitner defrauding two non-profit organizations that assisted veterans.  After a guilty verdict in this trial, Zeitner was sentenced to over 20 years incarceration.  Scott was instrumental in the prosecution of Mahin Kahn, which was the first successful prosecution under Arizona terrorism statutes.  Kahn pleaded guilty and was sentenced to eight years in prison and lifetime probation.

     
 

2017 Misdemeanor Prosecutor of the Year
Lewis Citrenbaum 

Deputy County Attorney

Yavapai County Attorney's Office

Lewis Citrenbaum exemplifies the ethic and dedication required to be a successful prosecutor; he is both tenacious in his pursuit of justice and compassionate. He had already completed several jury trials as a felony prosecutor in Superior Court when he was tapped to cover the Verde Valley Justice Court—the County’s busiest justice court. Recognizing the important role that our lower courts play in addressing criminal acts to keep our communities safe, Lewis enthusiastically embraced his new assignment. He has demonstrated particular skill in working with victims of domestic violence, helping them prepare for court and supporting them through the prosecution process. Lewis is a wonderful mentor to new attorneys, and he is well-respected by judges, defense counsel, victims, and even pro per defendants.  Lewis is a pleasure to have in our office and a wonderful credit to our profession statewide.

     
 

2017 Juvenile Prosecutor of the Year

Amy Drew 

Deputy County Attorney

Yavapai County Attorney's Office

Amy Drew began her career as a law enforcement officer before attending law school in 2010, joining the Yavapai County Attorney’s Office in 2013. We assigned Amy to our Juvenile Division in 2015 where she quickly became our go-to person on difficult juvenile issues. During this past year, Amy skillfully handled three cases arising from an unprecedented riot in our Juvenile Detention Center that was not quelled until local SWAT officers arrived on scene. Four juvenile detention officers were injured and three juveniles charged. Amy tenaciously litigated a resulting juvenile transfer hearing paying special attention to one very traumatized officer. Amy’s strong sense of justice, her comprehension of the rehabilitative nature of juvenile court, and her willingness to take matters to adult court when needed make her our Outstanding Juvenile Prosecutor for 2017. 

     
 

2017 Appeals Prosecutor of the Year

Dennis McGrane 

Chief Deputy

Yavapai County Attorney's Office

Dennis McGrane has served in the Yavapai County Attorney’s Office for 22 years in every capacity and is currently this office’s Chief Deputy. Although Dennis still fancies himself a trial attorney, his work over the last several years outside of his demanding administrative duties has involved appellate work of statewide significance. In fact, Dennis has 13 published appellate opinions in his career with this office. In achieving that, Dennis continues to credit his paralegals for the tremendous work they do, especially chasing down some of what even he would call his “hair-brained ideas.” The most significant appellate accomplishment this past year for Dennis is State v. Gulley, involving a defendant convicted of misdemeanor disorderly conduct with a prior misdemeanor disorderly conduct conviction within two years. Dennis successfully argued that the disorderly conduct is a felony conviction, not a misdemeanor conviction with felony sentencing as argued by the defendant.

     

  

 

2017 Rising Star Prosecutors of the Year

Sara Ransom 

Deputy County Attorney

Cochise County Attorney's Office

Sara Ransom is an attorney in our General Crimes unit.  Despite being new to prosecution, she is quick to step up and handle even the worst of crimes.  Murder, child exploitation, home invasion; each new set of problems that hits her desk, Sara takes up the cause and moves forward toward a just result.  Just a few highlights from her short time here, she obtained an SVP commitment on a rapist, a conviction on Second Degree Murder in an alleged "self-defense" cold case, and was instrumental in ending with long prison terms a child sexual exploitation ring in our otherwise quiet community. In her "spare" time, she's also very active in the community and apparently can drive a tractor.   

     
 

2017 David R. White
Excellence in Victim Advocacy Award

Noel Rascon 

Assistant City Prosecutor

City of Phoenix Prosecutor's Office

The City of Phoenix Prosecutor’s Office nominates Noel Rascon for the David R. White Excellence in Victim Advocacy Award for his outstanding service and exceptional advocacy on behalf of victims of A.R.S. § 28-672 cases.  These cases are challenging not only from a factual standpoint, but because of the emotional toll such cases take on both the victims/nextof-kin and on the prosecutor.  Victims in fatality cases often struggle to comprehend how an act that led to the death of a family member can only be a Class 3 misdemeanor.  Noel has a unique ability to relate to these victims and show them the compassion and patience they need at such a difficult time.  Noel gives these victims the time and attention they need, he ensures they know they have a voice in the process, and he sets the standard for handling victims in very challenging, emotional cases.  

     


 

 

2017 Lifetime Achievement Award
Jeannette Gallagher 

Deputy County Attorney

Maricopa County Attorney's Office

Jeannette graduated from the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater with a degree in social work and worked as a social worker for both the Wisconsin and Arizona Child Protective Services agencies.  Jeannette later graduated from the University of Arizona, College of Law and joined the Pima County Attorney’s Office.  Jeannette has thereafter been tirelessly prosecuting cases since 1989.  She joined our office May 2000.    Jeannette meticulously prepares every one of her cases and provides incredible guidance and exceptional support to Victims.  It is difficult to put into words the passion she has for prosecution, and the compassion she has for crime Victims.  Every one of the attorneys in her bureau has benefitted tremendously from having her as a supervisor – including realizing the extraordinary level of preparation needed in capital litigation, having the opportunity to observe (and hopefully learn from) Jeannette in trial – especially with expert witnesses, and, for the fortunate few, experiencing the opportunity to co-try cases with her.     

     

  2017 Lifetime Achievement Award

Doyle Johnstun 

Deputy County Attorney

Cochise County Attorney's Office 

Doyle Johnstun has engaged in the pursuit of justice for the citizens of Cochise County for the last 23 years.  Prior to this he worked in the Yuma County Attorney's Office.  Doyle's work ethic, knowledge, and skill are simply unparalleled.  Serving as the Chief Criminal Deputy since 2007, Doyle has overseen the creation of our Early Resolution Court system, the transition away from law enforcement filing felony cases, and has personally tried some of the most serious cases in our office.  All the while, he has remained humble, approachable, and kind.

   

2017 Lifetime Achievement Award

Thomas Varela 

Deputy County Attorney

Yuma County Attorney's Office 

A thirty (30) year, career prosecutor and prior APAAC Felony Prosecutor of the Year recipient (1992), Tom maintains the highest regard for ethics and competency.  He has committed himself and the better part of his career to the pursuit of justice and the betterment of his community.  Having handled thousands of felony cases and an abundance of jury trials, including some that involved multiple homicides and capital sentences, Tom is an inspiration to our office, and represents the very best that a public prosecutor has to offer. His character and dedication to public service and to ensuring the preservation of rights for crime victims are unparalleled.  He is always available to assist others and is held in high regard not only by his colleagues but his community as well.  Tom is the embodiment of the high standard that all public prosecutors might hope to achieve.    

     
   

2017 Lifetime Achievement Award

James "Jace" Zack 

Deputy County Attorney

Mohave County Attorney's Office 

He is an outstanding example of what a prosecutor can contribute to his community and the administration of justice. Jace Zack deserves the Lifetime Achievement Award because he is an insightful, articulate and honorable prosecutor. His career is a textbook example of how a person with integrity, fairness, and professionalism can uphold the highest demands of public trust. His extraordinary contributions as a prosecutor to the practice of law, public trust and careers of countless lawyers and judges should be recognized as exemplary. 

     
   

2016 Legal Assistant of the Year
Jeff Colbert
Legal Assistant

Jeff was the legal assistant in the simultaneous capital trials of State v Martinez and State v Licon. The Martinez case involved the ambush murder of Phoenix Police Officer Travis Murphy, shot multiple times with an AR-15 rifle.  Licon murdered his half-brother, and then executed his 6 year old nephew, a likely witness to the earlier killing. The Martinez trial ran from November of 2014 to November of 2015, requiring over seventy witness interviews, subsequent transcriptions, expert witnesses and re-enactment videos.  The Licon trial, itself spanning eight months, required organization of 1500 exhibits, pretrial interviews and preparation of over 100 witnesses, including mental health experts necessary to rebut an insanity defense.  Throughout the trials Jeff was instrumental in organizing exhibits, ensuring witness travel, preparing exhibits, power points, and providing dedication to detail necessary for successful prosecution.

     
   

2016 APAAC Victim Advocate of the Year
Debra Blair

Gila County Attorney’s Office

Debra Blair is a true Victims' Advocate. She ensures that in every case, especially those dealing with significant loss and emotional trauma, that the victims are treated with fairness, dignity, and respect. Debra's calm and empathetic demeanor, coupled with her knowledge of the criminal justice system, provides great comfort to victims who are often re-victimized by a system that all too often relegates them to the shadows. When Debra comes into contact with members of our community, they are often broken. Broken by senseless acts of violence committed on loved ones by heinous criminals. When Debra meets them for the first time, they are often having one of the worst days of their lives. Her mission, which seems impossible at first, is to reassure the victims that our office will do everything possible to ensure that we get "earthly justice" for their loved ones. Debra embodies what a Victim Advocate truly is - a strong, steady proponent for those seeking justice. Debra truly understands the saying that "a victim's first cry is for help; their second is for justice." Debra is, without a doubt, a champion advocate for victims in our community and has earned the highest of recognition.

     
     
     

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 Empowering Arizona's prosecutors through training and advocacy to serve as Ministers of Justice.

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