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Who is Rachel Mitchell, the Arizona prosecutor refusing to extradite accused NYC Soho hotel killer Raad Almansoor?

NEW YORK — Phoenix-area county attorney Rachel Mitchell, caught in a political war of words with Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg over her refusal to extradite an alleged killer to NYC, may be a familiar face to many Americans.

The Maricopa County attorney is a 57-year-old Republican who gained national attention when she was brought in to question Brett Kavanaugh and his sexual assault accuser Christine Blasey Ford during his Supreme Court confirmation hearing in 2018.

Mitchell, who has long been focused on sex crimes and crimes against children, became the county attorney in Maricopa in 2022.

She has not been viewed as a partisan warrior — and has earned praise from both sides of the aisle — but she is up for reelection, and her campaign platform highlights her record “fighting the Biden Administration.”

Currently, she is in a public tug-of-war with Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney, over the extradition of Raad Almansoori, a 26-year-old accused of killing a sex worker in a Manhattan hotel room before fleeing to Arizona, where he is alleged to have assaulted and stabbed a woman in a McDonald’s restaurant in suburban Phoenix.

Mitchell has said she will not immediately extradite Almansoori to New York, citing concerns about the progressive Bragg’s approach to violent criminals.

Bragg’s office has responded angrily, issuing a statement accusing Mitchell of “playing political games,” and releasing data showing that Phoenix has a far higher violent crime rate than New York City or than Manhattan in particular.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office has not formally issued an extradition request.

“There’s been no conversation between Mr. Bragg and Ms. Mitchell,” Jeanine L’Ecuyer, the chief of staff in the Maricopa County attorney’s office, said by phone Wednesday night.

What is Mitchell’s background?

Mitchell was born in Phoenix and raised in Arizona. She studied public administration and justice studies at Grand Canyon University and earned her law degree at Arizona State University. She lives in Phoenix, according to public records.

Her dad grew up on an Arkansas farm, her mother in a small-town in Pennsylvania. Neither of her parents completed college.

In the 1980s, Mitchell worked at the Arizona News Service/Arizona Capitol Times. She later wrote in a 2014 judicial application that the job brought valuable lessons, pushing her to be a “neutral listener and report information accurately as to all sides of an issue,” according to a 2018 report in The Arizona Republic.

After leaving journalism, Mitchell launched into her decades-long career as a prosecutor. She has served at multiple levels in the GOP-dominated Maricopa County attorney’s office, including a spell leading the sex crimes bureau.

She is an observant Christian and plays percussion in her church’s orchestra.

What is Mitchell’s reputation in Arizona?

Mitchell has been seen in Arizona as a serious, professional prosecutor with a victim-centered approach, said Bill Richardson, a retired police detective in Mesa, Ariz. As county attorney, Mitchell has sought to stabilize a scandal-plagued office and to tighten its bonds with city, county and state law enforcement, Richardson said.

“She’s no bulls–t,” said Richardson, a 72-year-old political independent. “She’s not seen as overly political.”

He said he was surprised Mitchell would find herself in a political firestorm, but added that he thought Mitchell made a practical judgement that moving Almansoori might allow him to exploit gaps in the legal system.

“She’s a professional prosecutor,” he said. “But she will defend herself. She’s not going to back down.”

When the Republican Party selected Mitchell to question the conservative Kavanaugh and his accuser in 2018, Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa hailed her “experience and objectivity.”

She was recognized by Gov. Janet Napolitano, a Democrat, as Arizona’s outstanding sexual-assault prosecutor in 2003. It was one of several awards she has received — including 2006 prosecutor of the year in the Maricopa County attorney’s office — according to her campaign website.

Maricopa is a sprawling swing county that went narrowly for President Biden in the 2020 presidential election.

How did the Kavanaugh confirmation questioning go?

Mitchell’s questioning during the Supreme Court confirmation hearings drew mixed reviews. Some hailed her restraint and persistence. But her steady probing also was hampered by the format of the proceeding, in which she was limited to five-minute rounds of questioning.

During the hearing, she acknowledged that the process was a flawed way to interview a victim.

“Would you believe me if I told you that there is no study that says that this setting — in five-minute increments — is the best way to do that,” Mitchell told Ford with a smile. “The best way is to have a trained interviewer talk to you one-on-one in a private setting and to let you do the talking.”

Many saw Mitchell’s selection as a thinly veiled effort by the GOP to avoid the awkward optics of having 11 men on the Senate Judiciary Committee questioning Ford, a California professor who accused Kavanaugh of sexually assaulting her three decades earlier, when they were teenagers.

Why is Mitchell under fire in New York?

Mitchell’s announcement that she would not extradite Almansoori to New York was a highly atypical move, and has been viewed as political grandstanding by some in New York.

“Having observed the treatment of violent criminals in the New York area by the Manhattan DA there, Alvin Bragg, I think it’s safer to keep him here and keep him in custody so that he cannot be out doing this to individuals either in our state or county or anywhere in the United States,” Mitchell said in a news conference Wednesday.

In a statement, Emily Tuttle, a spokeswoman for Bragg, described Mitchell’s approach as “deeply disturbing” and said it was a “slap in the face” to New York law enforcement that would halt the Manhattan district attorney’s efforts “to seek justice and full accountability for a New Yorker’s death.”

In her extradition decision, Mitchell has cited Bragg’s handling of migrants who reportedly fled New York after their involvement and arrests in a melee with the police. Much about the incident has been contested. Mitchell said some of the migrants wound up in Arizona, a claim that is at odds with news reporting.

In an appearance on Fox News on Thursday morning, Mitchell insisted that she was not casting aspersions on the New York City Police Department and said that her sympathy is with the family of the victim in New York.

“Since we have serious offenses here, we have the right to keep him where he is,” she said of Almansoori. “We’re not saying he will never be prosecuted in New York for what he did. But we’re saying we’re going first.”

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(New York Daily News staff writer Molly Crane-Newman contributed to this story.)

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