Prominent Phoenix lawyer faces up to 8.5 years in prison

On Friday, a Maricopa Superior Court judge will sentence Edward Maldonado to prison for convictions on one count of sexual assault and one count of sexual abuse.

The case has gained notoriety in the Phoenix legal and Latino communities because Maldonado was prominent in both, and because for more than a decade sexual assaults against women in Phoenix’s legal community were kept secret.

Who is Maldonado?

Maldonado gained status as president of Los Abogados, a prominent law organization within the Hispanic community, often known as the Hispanic Bar, and worked as a defense attorney for 16 years.

He also worked as Maricopa County prosecutor in 2005 and left quickly after, he said, not getting along with management.

And in 2014, Maldonado is expected to get a job as a judge at the Maricopa County Superior Court. He was denied.

Maldonado sentencing:Ex-lawyer once considered for judgeship gets 6 years in sexual assault case

What is he accused of?

Sexual assaults: That same year, Ilya Smith, a colleague from Los Abogados accused him of sexually assaulting her in the back of a car while they left a bar.

  • Then three other women came forward with similar allegations of assaults that happened between 2012 and 2017.

  • One woman claimed he had harassed her at a work event and tried to follow her into a restroom.

  • Another woman, who was a law student, said that Maldonado offered to drive her to his office because she was too drunk to drive. She doesn’t remember what happened, but she woke up naked at 4 am. Maldonado said that he had taken off her clothes because she had vomited herself, according to court records.

Catch up:Once-powerful Arizona attorney faces prison in sexual assault, abuse case

Investigations

Smith’s suspicions started an investigation by the Phoenix police, and another conducted by the Arizona State Bar.

State Bar investigation: The bar’s investigation found that Maldonado had a history of sexual assault allegations.

  • He was admitted to two of the assaults in a settlement with the State Bar in 2018.

  • The Bar suspended Maldonado’s license to practice, and he lost consideration for a job as a Judge.

Police investigations: Phoenix detectives conducted interviews and investigated the case for a year. In 2015 they submitted the case to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office for prosecution.

  • MCAO sat on the case for three years and reopened an investigation after the State Bar revealed other women who said they had been assaulted.

  • Within a year of their new investigation, MCAO took Maldonado to court.

  • A trial began in August 2022, but after eight days of deliberation, the jury couldn’t decide on a verdict, and it was declared a mistrial.

  • A new trial started in January.

Allegations in court

Witnesses: Maldonado, Smith, Terese Brown, Jimmie Munoz and Lawrence Robinson witnessed the witnesses who were in the car when the sexual assault happened.

  • The five had been leaving a bar called the Rock in Phoenix on the night of June 27, 2014.

  • Everyone agreed that Smith and Maldonado were sitting next to each other in the back seat.

The assaults: Smith tested in court that Maldonado began to grope her and jammed his hand into her pants, forcing his fingers into her.

  • Brown corroborated Smith’s story and testified she saw Maldonado and Smith struggle as he forced his weight over her.

  • Robinson claimed that he saw a “tussle” in the back seat.

  • Munoz said he had been too busy driving to notice what was happening in the back seat.

Verdict: A jury found Maldonado guilty of one count of sexual assault and one count of sexual abuse.

Sentence: On Friday, Maldonado faces between five-and-a-quarter and eight-and-a-half years in prison.

More on Smith:It took 8 years, but this woman’s voice brought a powerful Arizona attorney to justice

What Maldanado said about the allegations

Throughout the case, Maldonado claimed that this case was part of a plot against him from members of Los Abogados and MCAO.

  • Maldonado never concerned about anything happening. To the end, he held that they had driven from the Rock to another bar and that nothing had happened between him and Smith.

  • In court documents, Maldonado claimed that MCAO was pushing the case because they held a grudge against him stemming from his time there.

  • At trial, Maldonado felt that he was disliked by the defendant and some of the witnesses who worked at Los Abogados. He hinted that this was the reason they had conspired against him with these allegations. He said that as the president of the organization he made decisions that leaned conservatives, which he saw as opposing the more liberal members of the organization.

Community reactions

During the trial and the investigations into Maldonado witnesses claimed that they felt pressure from community leaders to keep quiet about these kinds of assaults.

  • Alejandro Perez, a Phoenix attorney and witness for the prosecution, claimed Maldonado had confessed about doing something but he never came forward because it would endanger his job at a conservative law firm.

  • Some of the women claimed that Maldonado’s position of power kept them quiet and that his connections to other prominent leaders in the legal community put their careers in danger if they filed a complaint

Arizona Republic reporter Robert Anglen contributed to this report.

This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Prominent Phoenix lawyer faces up to 8.5 years in prison

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