Career prosecutor and victim advocate Jonathan Mosher of Tucson, who has convicted many killers and violent offenders, is running as a Democrat for Pima County attorney. He supports “smart criminal justice reform” including measures such as:
- Diverting nonviolent drug users to treatment instead of prison.
- Decriminalizing marijuana while keeping roads and kids safe.
- Abolishing the death penalty.
- Decriminalizing poverty.
- Fighting gun violence and requiring gun registration.
- Cracking down texting and distracted driving.
Mosher, who is the Pima County Chief Criminal Deputy Attorney, has been a prosecutor for 15 years. The Pima County Attorney’s office has 100 attorneys and hundreds of support staff. Retiring Pima County Attorney Barbara Lawall has endorsed Mosher, as have former state senator Steve Farley, state representative Daniel Hernandez (D-LD2 Tucson) and Pima County Administrator Chuck Huckleberry.
“I’ve been trying big, bad, scary cases for a long time. I want to save lives and make the community safe,” he says. “Together we will do great things, and create a new era of collaborative, effective, and progressive justice in Pima County,” he says, “I’m not talking about pie in the sky. Why can’t I be progressive and still fight crime?”
Mosher, age 50, is 6 foot 2 with the trim physique of an ultrarunner. He ran a 100-mile marathon from Flagstaff to the Grand Canyon, which took 25 hours, and he has participated in eight Iron Man events.
Prosecuting major crimes
He has a solid record of successfully prosecuting major crimes, including:
- The 2018 conviction for murder, burglary, kidnapping, arson and theft in the 2008 killing of Kay Read, then 62, who taught Sunday school at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church.
- The 2018 manslaughter conviction of a driver in a 2017 road rage incident in Marana. Martin Padilla, a father of four, was gunned down in front of children by Dixon because the other driver was angry that the family minivan was going too slowly.
- The 2018 murder conviction of a man who was angry at a co-worker — Nicolas Morelos, 45, of Northwest Tucson — and crawled into his bedroom window and killed him.
- The 2018 aggravated assault conviction of Craig Carter, a former assistant track and field coach for the University of Arizona who choked and threatened Baillie Gibson, a discus thrower and shot-putter, with a box cutter. Carter was sentenced to five years in prison.
- The 2018 murder conviction of Joshua Lelevier, a stepfather to was surreptitiously filming his teenage stepdaughter in the bathroom and later killed her. Lelevier, 39, was convicted of first-degree murder, abandonment of a dead body, voyeurism, domestic-violence-related surreptitious photographing and sexual exploitation of a minor in the May 2017 killing of 13-year-old Jayden Glomb.
- The 2017 triple-murder conviction of David Watson, a Tucson Fire Department Captain, who killed his ex-wife, her mother and a friend in a crime that was unsolved for more than 10 years. NBC featured this prosecution on Dateline in “Secrets of the Desert.”
Treatment, not prison, for drug possession
In an interview with the Blog for Arizona, Mosher focused on treatment and rehabilitation of drug offenders who are not a danger to the community. “Sending addicts to prison is the exact wrong solution. You don’t deserve to be sent to a facility that promotes racism and violence. That doesn’t benefit anyone,” he says.
The Arizona Marijuana Legalization Initiative may appear on the ballot in Arizona as an initiated state statute on November 3, 2020. It would legalize the possession, consumption, cultivation, and sale of marijuana for adults who are at least 18 years old.
It costs more than $30,000 a year to house a prisoner, compared to much less expensive and more effective treatment programs. “I don’t want addicts to be sent to prison when for less money we can divert them into a rehab program.”
Mosher works with colleagues Amelia Cramer, Chief Deputy Pima County Attorney, and Kate K. Vesely, Director of Specialty Court Initiatives, on the Drug Treatment Alternative to Prison (DTAP) Program. It enables drug-addicted criminal defendants to plead guilty to an offense and then enter a residential, therapeutic community treatment system for three years as an alternative to a prison sentence. The program includes wraparound recovery services including transitional housing, literacy services, higher education, job training and placement, and counseling, accompanied by drug testing, probation monitoring, and regular court hearings.
“Crime rates are falling in the city and the county, because of our more effective approaches.”
Decriminalization of marijuana and poverty
“I’m open to the idea of marijuana reform. It makes sense, but it needs to be done properly and carefully to protect our roadways from impaired driving and to protect kids,“ he says. “Nobody should be spending any time in jail or prison for possession of marijuana. Our office already accomplishes this by treating possession as a misdemeanor.”
He noted that the Tucson Police gives officers the discretion not to charge a drug addict, or person with mental illness, with a crime, and instead to take them to a treatment provider, without ever creating a case to be prosecuted. “This is smart reform,” he says.
Mosher says marijuana prosecutions have a disparate impact on poor and minority communities. “Currently, medical marijuana in Arizona is legal if you get a card and pay hundreds of dollars for it. Why should a homeless person in the park with a joint suffer different consequences than a person who can afford to get a card?” he asked.
“I will not allow anyone to go to jail or prison for simple possession of marijuana.” He said that 10 years ago, as many as 500 kids were placed in juvenile criminal detention. “We’re moving away from the incarceration of juveniles for all offenses. Juveniles are not incarcerated for marijuana offenses. If I’m the county prosecutor, we’re not locking up kids for marijuana possession,” he says.
Abolishing the death penalty
The last prisoner executed in Arizona was in 2014. Meanwhile, 113 men and 3 women sit on death row. “I want to take a hard look at the death penalty. It’s inarguable that the death penalty has failed.
“We are not able to deliver justice to victims, who are left in purgatory because of the risk of a case coming back on appeal. The death penalty sentences victims to decades of uncertainty. How is that not cruel and unusual?” Mosher says.
He was convinced by Deputy County Attorney Rick Unklesbay, the chief of the Conviction Integrity Unit, who has prosecuted 100 murder cases, including 16 ending with the death penalty. He wrote a book, “Arbitrary Death,” concluding that the arbitrary nature of the death penalty works against the fair application of the law. The book says that it ultimately is a roll of the dice as to whether a defendant lives or dies.
“If we can put people away for natural life and so they never threaten the community, we should take a hard look at it. If there is legislation to abolish the death penalty, I’m willing to give input,” Mosher says.
“Why can’t we get smart about gun violence?” he says, adding that gun violence, along with sex trafficking and domestic violence, are areas needing more prosecution.
There are a lot of gun rights and a lot of gun responsibilities. We need to get this message out to folks,” he said, citing the road rage murder of Martin Padilla. “In Arizona, you have to register your car, but not your gun. I need to be able to click on a button and find out who owns a gun in a crime.”
“The same people who say they want to be tough on crime are not pro-gun violence.”
As of 2017, there were 278 alcohol-impaired driving fatalities in Arizona. In contrast, distracted driving caused 741 car crashes in 2017, caused by eating, drinking, putting on makeup, changing the radio and using on a cell phone while driving.
Texting while driving is illegal in Pima County. However, a state law banning texting or using a cell phone while driving does not take effect until 2021.
“We need to keep our roadways safe. I’ve seen what impaired driving does to innocent people,” Mosher says. “Drivers will run a red light because of texting. I will do everything to fight against distracted driving. We need a shift in attitude like we had with DUI.”
“I always read newspapers about horrific crimes, rape, and murder being committed, and I wanted to fight back against crime,” Mosher says. In his high school days in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, he was a champion debater and won tournaments across the country.
He studied English at Colgate University and law at the University of Iowa, graduating in 1994. He clerked for Maricopa County Superior Court Judge William Schaefer in Phoenix, and then for Arizona Supreme Court Justice James Moeller. Afterward, he spent eight years at big corporate law firms in California, but returned to Arizona in 2005, joining the Pima County Attorney’s office.
You can find more information about Jonathan Mosher at mosher2020.com.