Felony Charges On the Table For AZ Patriots Leader Jennifer Harrison

Jennifer Harrison at a women's rights protest in Tempe in February 2020 alongside her mugshot after her arrest earlier this month.
Jennifer Harrison at a women's rights protest in Tempe in February 2020 alongside her mugshot after her arrest earlier this month. Benjamin Leatherman/Maricopa County Sheriff's Office

Prosecutors have a message for AZ Patriots leader Jennifer Harrison: You’re not getting off so easy this time.

Harrison, an alt-right firebrand, didn't face charges after she sprayed a young girl with bear mace at a Black Lives Matter protest in Phoenix in June 2020. Tempe police say she pulled the stunt again on July 3.

Harrison, 45, was arrested on suspicion of dousing pro-choice protesters in bear mace near a Fourth of July celebration at Tempe Beach Park and initially faced a pair of misdemeanor charges. But on Monday, Tempe city prosecutors dropped those charges to make way for possible felony charges.

After a two-week investigation, it was determined that “Harrison’s actions in spraying protestors with bear spray merit the consideration of felony charges,” according to a joint statement from the Tempe Prosecutors Office and the Tempe Police Department.

City attorneys dropped the misdemeanor charges and referred upgraded felony charges to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office for consideration on Thursday.

“The submittal is currently under review by our office,” county attorney spokesperson Jennifer Liewer told Phoenix New Times on Tuesday.

Liewer could not share which specific charges the office is considering.

According to police, people were demonstrating at Mill Avenue and University Drive on July 3 "when a subject deployed what appeared to be pepper spray from a vehicle toward members in the crowd."

Several passersby caught the incident on video.

At the time, the department did not name a person of interest. But after a flurry of photos and videos of the attack surfaced on social media, Harrison admitted to her role in the attack and surrendered to Tempe police four days later on minor charges of assault and disorderly conduct.

She was quickly released.

In a tweet posted to her own since-deleted account, Harrison claimed that she sprayed bear mace from the passenger window because one protester “clearly did not like Jennifer and was saying profanities directed towards Jennifer.”

Harrison also claimed the protester reached into her car window, at which point “there was no telling what her intentions were,” and that another protester “approached the vehicle with arms raised in a striking motion lunging toward Jennifer through the open window.”

Eyewitness accounts and videos of the altercation fail to corroborate either claim.

Harrison's boyfriend, Michael Pavlock, who was driving the car, has not been charged in the incident, according to court records. Pavlock has accompanied Harrison during her vigilante antics on the southern border and around the Valley.

The dismissal of charges at the city level allows county attorneys to consider felony charges in the case. If the county attorney declines to proceed with upgraded charges, Tempe prosecutors will again review pursuing misdemeanor charges in the incident.

Tempe has one year from the date of the incident to bring misdemeanor charges against the AZ Patriots figurehead, who harassed migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border and rallied against government restrictions in response to the global pandemic.

AZ Patriots is an “anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim extremist group,” according to the Southern Poverty Law Center. Harrison made a name for the organization with her guerrilla anti-protests, antagonizing demonstrators with opposing views and posting videos of the altercations on Facebook.

In 2019, with Harrison at the helm, the group snuck into the Arizona Democratic Party headquarters in Phoenix by pretending they were dropping off donations for asylum seekers. Instead, they left two bags of garbage apparently picked up along the border.

As a result, Facebook unpublished the group's online page.

That prompted Harrison to join the Arizona Republican Party as a precinct committee member, later feigning being a journalist in an attempt to infiltrate the Maricopa County Elections Department during ballot tabulation for the 2020 general election.

A month after the election, she was arrested on suspicion of identity fraud after using 45,000 of her former father-in-law's reward points to book a hotel room in Northern California to attend a music festival.

She took a deal to avoid felony charges.

Time will tell if she’s lucky enough to dodge felony charges a second time.

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Elias Weiss is a staff writer at the Phoenix New Times. A native of Charlotte, North Carolina, he reported first for the Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and was editor of the Chatham Star-Tribune in Southern Virginia, where he covered politics and law. In 2020, the Virginia Press Association awarded him first place in the categories of Government Writing and Breaking News Writing for non-daily newspapers statewide.
Contact: Elias Weiss