Phoenix prosecutors set to drop charges against accused highway shooter

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Story highlights

  • Leslie Allen Merritt Jr. has maintained his innocence
  • There were 11 shootings near I-10 between August 29 and September 10

(CNN)Phoenix prosecutors on Friday filed a motion to dismiss charges against the man accused in a string of highway shootings in 2015.

Leslie Allen Merritt Jr. was charged with 16 felonies stemming from 11 shootings around I-10 between August 29 and September 10. No one was killed in the shootings.
Police said Merritt was "forensically linked" to the first four shootings along Interstate 10 in downtown Phoenix. Merritt has maintained police have "the wrong guy."
    Merritt's lawyer, Jason Lamm, shared the late Friday development on Twitter. The Maricopa County Attorney's office filed a motion to dismiss charges without prejudice, which means prosecutors can refile charges at a later date, spokesman Jerry Cobb said. Prosecutors can refile charges within the seven-year statute of limitation, Lamm and Cobb said.
    "Our office is working with DPS to conduct additional forensic investigation and review the available evidence in order to proceed with the case," Cobb said. "The motion without prejudice provides us with the necessary window of opportunity and time in order to allow prosecutors to prepare the case for possible refiling of charges."
    He declined to elaborate on specific developments that led to the motion to dismiss the charges.
    "It is not out of character for what our office does or how we view our ethical or professional duty," he said. "This is what prosecutors do: We have an ethical and professional obligation to act in the interest of justice.
    Merritt was released last week after the court granted his motion to modify release conditions. The next step for him is to appear before a judge so the charges can be formally dismissed and the conditions of his release be vacated.
    Merritt's lawyer is still under a gag order and declined to comment extensively on the case. He told CNN that his client is happy with the development after being wrongly accused and held in solitary confinement since September.
    "You have a client labeled as a domestic terrorist, a client who is 100% innocent of all charges, something we knew from the beginning, and he's completely cleared," Lamm said Saturday. "How can you not be happy?"