A to Z

AG can’t prosecute UA students who protested Border Patrol agents

By: - April 29, 2019 11:23 am

Photo by University of Arizona

The Arizona Attorney General’s Office has no plans to follow through on the calls from two GOP legislators that it prosecute three University of Arizona students who disrupted an event last month while protesting U.S. Border Patrol agents who were guest speakers.

Several weeks after the March 19 incident, Denisse Moreno Melchor, 20, Mariel Alexandra Bustamante, 22, and Marianna Ariel Coles Curtis, 27, were issued misdemeanor citations by UA police for interfering with the peaceful conduct of an educational institution. Moreno also was issued a citation for threats and intimidation.

The students had confronted the agents while they spoke to a student-run club for criminal-justice students. Several students in the hallway outside the classroom called the Border Patrol an “extension of the KKK” and then chanted “murder patrol” as the agents walked to their cars and drove away, the Arizona Daily Star reported.

But on April 23, county prosecutors asked the court to dismiss the charges, citing “a careful review of the facts and the law and the relevant circumstances in each case.”

That infuriated many conservatives in Arizona and across the country who had cheered on UA President Robert Robbins when he announced in early April that charges would be brought against the students.

In a press release that same day, four Republican lawmakers castigated Pima County Attorney Barbara LaWall for the decision. Two of them, Sen. Vince Leach of Tucson and Rep. Leo Biasiucci of Lake Havasu City, called on Attorney General Mark Brnovich to prosecute the students.

However, a spokesman for Brnovich, also a Republican, said the office has no plans to investigate or prosecute the students – and it couldn’t do so, even if it wanted to.

“The Attorney General’s Office does not have jurisdiction generally over misdemeanor offenses unless the county asks for our assistance and grants us authority,” said Ryan Anderson, a spokesman for Brnovich’s office.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Jim Small
Jim Small

Jim Small is a native Arizonan and has covered state government, policy and politics since 2004, with a focus on investigative and in-depth policy reporting, first as a reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times, then as editor of the paper and its prestigious sister publications, the Yellow Sheet Report and Arizona Legislative Report. Under his guidance, the Capitol Times won numerous state, regional and national awards for its accountability journalism and probing investigations into state government operations.