Killer Plea


  1. Brutal killer granted sweetheart plea deal by Bill Montgomery.
  2. New plea granted over the objection of the assigned homicide prosecutor.
  3. New plea granted over the objection of the victim’s family.
  4. Changes made at the request of a politically connected defense attorney currently representing Sheriff Arpaio.

In 2014 Bill Montgomery, at the written request of a powerful local attorney, chose to intervene on behalf of a defendant who participated in beating a man to death with a baseball bat, slitting his throat, stabbing him repeatedly in the chest, and duct taping a plastic bag over his head. The defendant was facing a 25 to life sentence. The deputy county attorney handling the case made a plea offer for Second Degree Murder with a prison range of 14 to 22 years. Despite her longtime experience handling murder cases, Bill Montgomery – a longtime politician far removed from the front lines of prosecution – chose to override the deputy county attorney’s judgment and offered the defendant a plea to Second Degree Murder with a sentencing range of 10 to 22 years despite tearful pleas from the victim’s family.

Montgomery knew nothing about the case until he was personally emailed by local attorney Mel McDonald, a man most recognized as one of Sheriff Joe Arpaio’s attorneys in the Melendarez… racial profiling case in federal court. The email to Mr. Montgomery begins with a cheerful greeting as if the two men have been friends for many years and perhaps not the first time McDonald has sought favors from Montgomery: “Bill: This email to you is my last email for the year 2013. I wanted you to know what a terrific job you have done as the County Attorney. You have restored such confidence in your office. I have heard so much comment from many judges and attorneys about the breath of fresh air that you brought to the office.” After the ingratiating introduction, McDonald gets straight to the point: he wants the defendant to be able to argue for a 10-year prison sentence despite the gruesome crime he committed.

Although this request occurred after the defendant had already entered the 14 to 22 year plea, Montgomery emailed the assigned deputy county attorney asking her to justify the reasons for the offer. In a factually on point email the prosecutor explains the justification for the plea offer. In various emails the prosecutor also informs her immediate supervisors the victim’s family and the Peoria Police Department are adamant about their unwillingness to lower the current offer.

Normally Montgomery would have ignored such a request from a defense attorney and deferred judgment to the prosecutor handling the case. But not when the attorney requesting leniency has political power, such as Mel McDonald, who interestingly was not the defense attorney handling the case. It is unclear how McDonald became involved, and even more questionable as to why Montgomery would entertain such a request and then question his prosecutor’s judgment. Consequently, months later the defendant’s plea was amended to reflect an agreed upon sentencing range of 10 to 22 years over the assigned county attorney’s objection, which is most notably preserved in the State’s Motion to Modify Plea, wherein she writes, “Undersigned counsel makes this motion at the request of her supervisors.” 

Bill Montgomery granted personal and privileged access to his office by authorizing an extremely lenient plea offer for a gruesome murder at the request of a high-powered, politically connected attorney. But for the political positioning of McDonald and his direct access to Montgomery, this plea offer would not have occurred. For a self-proclaimed champion of “victim’s rights”, Montgomery’s actions shed light on what he is really concerned about: doing favors for friends in high places.

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