Arizona prosecutor gets tough on gun crime, not gun owners

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Every day on Cam & Co we feature the “Recidivist Report”; a segment featuring a slap-on-the-wrist sentence or the latest arrest of a prolific violent offender who’s caught a half-dozen “lucky” breaks that have allowed him to avoid ever serving hard time. The reason why I’ve done this for close to 20 years is simple: If the goal is a safer society, I think we’re far better off addressing the very real flaws in our criminal justice system instead of trying to create new crimes out of the right to keep and bear arms.

I don’t generally have trouble finding these stories, even though local coverage of the court system isn’t what it used to be. And these plea bargains that allow repeat or violent offenders to walk away on probation aren’t limited to places like Los Angeles or Philadelphia, where progressive prosecutors like George Gascon and Larry Krasner seemingly go out of their way to keep those convicted of serious offenses from ever seeing the inside of a prison cell. This is a problem in both red and blue sections of the country, but a purple-state prosecutor is actually doing something about it.

“We’re partnering with the Phoenix Police Department to crack down on gun crimes, and so we are going to be unveiling a policy that if a gun is used in the commission of a crime or if somebody is an unlawful possessor of a gun, they are going to go to prison,” Rachel Mitchell, the interim head of the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office, told KTAR News 92.3 FM’s The Mike Broomhead Show on Thursday morning.

The policy change goes into effect Friday. Any deviations will require approval from a supervisor.

… Mitchell, a 30-year veteran of MCAO, said she’s seen similar policy changes serve as an effective crime deterrent.

“People need to know that we are serious about this, and we’re going to be asking for them to be high bond, to stay in jail so that they’re not out committing more violent offenses, and that will cut down on it,” she said. “And then we are going to be asking for prison.”

“The word will get around. I’m confident of that.”

Keep in mind that Arizona is a permitless carry state, so if you can legally own the gun you can lawfully carry it, so we’re primarily talking about convicted felons and those accused of a violent crime. This is the prosecutorial version of targeted deterrence; a policy that is directed at those who are the most likely drivers of violence in any given community.

Call me crazy, but I think there should be consequences for violent crimes that go beyond an ankle monitor and a court-ordered grounding for a few months. I also believe that getting away with one crime makes it more likely that someone will commit another, and that criminal behavior can easily escalate from petty crimes to serious offenses when the state shrugs off its responsibility to provide those consequences.

Take this recent story out of Albuquerque, for example. Beloved neighborhood pizzeria owner Rosario Zito was murdered Tuesday night when an armed robber entered the store around closing time. Zito was armed as well, and fired at the suspect, but was fatally shot; allegedly by 27-year old Sylvan Alcachupas, a man with a long history of escalating crimes and light punishments.

Alcachupas has a history of arrests going back to 2014. Charges include things like shoplifting, drug possession, car theft, and fleeing the cops.

A look at Alcachupas’ arrest records also shows this isn’t the first time he’s been accused of armed robbery.

Surveillance photos were taken in Los Luna Speedway gas station in July 2020. Police say he pulled a gun on the cashier and robbed the place.

In Jan. 2022, Alcachupas took a plea deal in Valencia County in a case from August 2020. He pleaded guilty to charges of robbery, and assault and was sentenced to five years of probation.

Charged with armed robbery, but prosecutors dropped the gun charge and he walked away unscathed, at least until August 3rd, when police arrested him in a stolen car. Instead of holding him over for a probation violation hearing, Alcachupas was once again released when prosecutors didn’t request to keep him behind bars. It gets worse.

On Aug. 24, a probation violation order was filed in Valencia County. It noted that Alcachupas failed to follow the conditions of his release.

With this arrest in Albuquerque being a part of that.

Meanwhile, a newly issued arrest warrant shows Alcachupas failed to show up to court Tuesday, Aug. 30 for a hearing tied to the August car theft charge. That warrant shows the hearing he skipped was set for Aug. 30, the same day as the murder.

Rosario Zito would be alive today if the criminal justice system was actually dispensing justice to the perpetrators (and victims) of violent crime. Alcachupas should have gone to prison for armed robbery, instead of skipping away on probation. In the months since he was given a fantastic opportunity to turn his life around it almost sounds like he’s tried to get himself thrown behind bars, but the state just wouldn’t go along.

There are unfortunately a lot of cases like Sylvan Alcachupas’ out there, but policies like the one adopted by Rachel Mitchell in Maricopa County have the potential to save a lot of lives; first by keeping violent offenders behind bars, but by also convincing some would-be offenders that the consequences aren’t worth the crime.