New staff continues to join the Gila County Attorney’s Office in the wake of the election of a new county attorney and the departure of almost every prosecutor in the office.
Since beating out long-standing County Attorney Daisy Flores, Bradley Beauchamp has assigned a new chief deputy, detective, paralegal (the first for the office) and several new prosecutors.
The recent new hires include attorney Andrew Hanna, fresh from the Phoenix School of Law.
Hanna, 31, will primarily handle misdemeanor cases in Payson, including those involving traffic, assault and domestic violence.
He hopes to make a difference, having decided early on in school that he wanted to prosecute criminal cases.
“I believe there is more opportunity to do good here,” he said.
As a prosecutor, Hanna has the power to not file a case or reduce the charges. But as a defense attorney, Hanna didn’t feel comfortable arguing for lesser sentences for people that may be guilty.
“I know there are innocent folks out there and I definitely feel that as prosecutors it is our obligation to make sure we are going after the right folks. But at the end of the day, as a defense attorney you are trying to get the best deal for a guy you know did something bad.”
As a prosecutor, Hanna can also work with defendants to get them help and treatment as well as victims. So often in domestic violence cases, he said, there is a history of abuse.
“This is the place to help folks because someone has got to speak for people who have had bad things happen to them.”
But domestic violence defendants are frequently allowed to plead to assault, not domestic violence. These pleas rarely come with prison time and defendants are back with their victims in no time.
And for victims, it is not always easy to walk away.
Hanna said while working in Peoria, a victim’s coordinator explained that some domestic violence victims are almost like addicts — addicted to abusive relationships.
“So, a lot of the behaviors they have are designed to perpetuate and continue it — it is a self reinforcing cycle,” he said. “They know it is bad and they know it is shameful, but they keep going through the motions.”
Hanna said both abusers and victims need treatment and counseling.
Hanna said he works with defense attorneys on plea deals that keep the domestic violence charge instead of downgrading it to assault.
After two domestic violence convictions, the third is considered a felony and “they can go away for a long time and hopefully give the victims time to get themselves together and get them in a better place by the time they get out.”
Hanna said he takes each case individually, but will rarely drop a domestic violence charge.
County Attorney Beauchamp campaigned on a platform that advocated a tougher stance on plea deals. He has since implemented a stricter plea policy with the help of Shawn Fuller, chief deputy county attorney.
Fuller said they are not offering defendants deals that either significantly lower or eliminate charges.
With Beauchamp and Fuller’s views on plea deals on par with his own, transitioning to the office has been easy and rewarding, Hanna said.
Hanna never imagined though that he would work in law, much less for a county attorney’s office.
After graduating high school, Hanna enlisted in the U.S. Army searching for a direction.
He was sent to Afghanistan and for his second tour, Iraq.
After four years in the military, working primarily in infantry, Hanna went back home and enrolled in college at Illinois State University.
The idea of law hadn’t yet crossed his mind.
He focused instead on becoming a high school history teacher. After graduating with his teaching degree, all the jobs in Illinois had dried up. He applied around the country and was offered two positions in Arizona, one at a Green Valley high school and another teaching GED classes at a correctional institute in Eloy.
He chose the prison.
One of his duties was bringing inmates law books so they could research their appeals. As he grew more familiar with the material, he realized he had an interest in law and decided to enroll in law school.
It was the first time anyone in his family had taken up the field.
After graduating last year passing the Bar exam, Hanna learned the GCAO had hired one of his law school friends — Lauren Ramirez — who now works in the Globe office handling vehicular cases for the county.
Ramirez mentioned to Hanna that the office needed more help and Hanna applied.
He said he had always loved visiting the area and now he gets to live and make a difference where he vacationed.
“I know there are a lot of bad things happening in the world and I know that on 99.9 percent of those I won’t be able to do anything about them, but here at least I know that I can wake up and say that I went out there and helped some folks today and maybe I can do the same thing tomorrow and keep doing that and feel good about that.”