Four years ago, Brian Stepter failed to return a rental car on time. Police & prosecutors responded with full force, arresting him for seven felony charges, tracking his cell phone location data, and seeking the harshest sentence possible for his crimes.…
It all started w a tip sent to Scottsdale police by a "concerned citizen." It was a photo of a Black man w a white woman, a license plate number, & an allegation that "criminal activity," like drugs or prostitution, may be taking place at the location where the photo was taken.
SPD ran the plates. The car was being rented by Brian Stepter, & it was six days late. So cops started surveilling him. They also called the rental car co. 3x in one wk.

“They were willing to be a victim” and the car “eventually got listed as stolen,” the lead detective said.
When the car was reported stolen, Stepter owed ~$2,000. He left his credit card on file & signed a rental agreement stating he'd be charged a $59 per day late fee

"I was thinking the whole time— I had 30 days to return it & so long as I paid the late fees, I’d be fine," he said
After surveilling him for several days, SPD surrounded Stepter at a 7/11 parking lot. They patted him down and found .13 grams of crack & 4.6 grams of heroin. For comparison, a teaspoon-size rock of crack cocaine would weigh roughly 50 times more than the amount found on Stepter.
Stepter, then 57, was arrested on five felony counts: theft of means of transportation, unlawful failure to return rented property, possession of drug paraphernalia, and two counts of possession of narcotic drugs.
Things got crazier from there. For years, Stepter fought the charges against him while out on bond. In July 2019, he filed an application to set aside a conviction for a narcotic drug violation from 2011. He filled it out on his own, and he made several mistakes on the form.
For that, police & prosecutors went after Stepter again. In Sept 2019, cops got a warrant to collect precision location data & call records from Stepter’s phone. Then they tracked him down & arrested him at his dentist's office for perjury & forgery.

He's been in jail ever since
Stepter is 61 & suffers from chronic respiratory problems. On his way home from Thanksgiving dinner at his gf's house in 2001, Stepter was shot 10 times. The bullets blew out his larynx & his airway. Surgeries have repaired some damage, but he still has a restricted airway.
Prosecutors have ensured Stepter receives the harshest sentence possible. They alleged over a dozen aggravating circumstances (which enhance the penalties if convicted) & brought up all of Stepter’s prior convictions, which also permits prosecutors to seek a longer sentence.
As the case neared trial, prosecutors motioned to exclude certain evidence at trial.

They asked the court not to permit: references to Stepter’s potential punishment, references to Stepter’s physical & mental health issues, references to the fact that Stepter was shot, and more
Prosecutors even asked the judge to “preclude any & all mention of George Floyd, Dion Johnson, Breonna Taylor, & any other person shot by police officers,” arguing that references to racial injustice “have no place in the Defendant’s trial.”

They are seeking an 8-year sentence.
In April, Stepter's father died. His attorney filed a motion to permit Stepter to attend the funeral & noted Stepter is in a high-risk group for exposure to COVID-19 due to his age & restricted airway, but prosecutors objected, saying the pandemic "does not justify" his release.
“There is no emergency in the county jail,” prosecutors argued, saying that Stepter “is likely safer in custody than if he were released.”

The judge agreed, & ordered Stepter to remain in custody. He missed his father's funeral.
“It’s all a nightmare,” Stepter said. “It’s almost a life sentence...I lost my dad since I’ve been in here. My mother is 80 years old. It’s scary. You never want to lose a parent while you’re in here.”…

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More from @megoconnor13

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