FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. – The former Northern Arizona University student accused of shooting four fellow students in 2015 — killing one — may be prosecuted by a different county attorney's office if a judge grants a motion filed by the defense to disqualify the Coconino County Attorney’s Office.
Former Coconino County Attorney, Terry Hance, explained how this may unravel in court.
“What they’re saying is that the County Attorney’s Office allegedly acted improperly,” Hance said.
Jones’s defense attorneys want the Coconino County Attorney’s Office disqualified.
In a motion filed Monday, the defense accused the office of current County Attorney, William Ring, of sharing statements made by Jones’s father in the criminal case with Ring’s former employer, Aspey, Watkins & Diesel, PLLC.
This is the same firm representing the shooting victims and their families in a lawsuit filed against Jones’s dad.
“That can be both an ethical issue or a legal issue,” Hance said.
In an email to 12 News, County Attorney Ring sent the following statement.
“Our prosecution teams at the Coconino County Attorney’s Office are Ministers of Justice. We are appointed through the Arizona Constitution and State Law to prosecute public offenses. We will not relinquish that sworn duty. We will honorably fulfill it.”
The lawyers battling the civil suit against Jones’s father emailed the following statement.
“Aspey, Watkins & Diesel has been representing several of Steven Jones’ shooting victims for nearly two years. Steve Jones’ defense counsel has been aware of this fact from day one. It was also no secret that AWD intended to represent these victims in potential civil proceedings against Jones. AWD is surprised to learn Steve Jones’ criminal defense counsel is now claiming, nearly two years after the fact, that AWD’s role somehow creates a conflict of interest for the Coconino County Attorney.”
Our expert said it is rare for a judge to grant a motion to disqualify, but if he did, another county or the attorney general’s office would have to prosecute this case, unless the Coconino County Attorney’s Office chose to appeal.
The state has until Aug. 29 to file a response to the motion.