Ready to handle the ‘grittiest’ of crimes
By Sherry Jackson
From notorious motorcycle club members to adult filmmakers to defendants facing life in prison for murder charges, attorney Richard Gaxiola has the skillset, reputation and experience to achieve tremendous results and he works tirelessly for his clients.
Gaxiola focuses his practice on major felony defense and believes everyone charged with a crime deserves to have aggressive representation.
“It’s fundamental for those facing serious criminal charges to have an experienced and reputable criminal defense lawyer with significant trial experience under their belt,” he says. “So often, I take over cases from other lawyers who have handled the cases ineffectively due to their lack of criminal trial experience or legal knowledge required to represent the client successfully.”
Gaxiola was born in California, but grew up in the small town of Morenci, in Arizona’s Greenlee County. He’s been practicing law for almost 20 years. After graduating in 2000 from the University of Arizona College of Law, Gaxiola worked as a public defender for 22 months handling felony trials for the Maricopa County Public Defender’s Office. After that, he spent 10 years litigating personal injury and felony defense cases with a small boutique firm in Phoenix.
“I decided to go into law to level the playing field,” he says. “I saw so many discrepancies in the criminal justice system and wanted to make a difference.”
In 2009, Gaxiola decided criminal defense was his passion. “I want to help those that I can with the best, aggressive legal representation.”
Underneath his suit and tie, Gaxiola is decked out with two full-sleeve arm tattoos. He may not be the typical conservative lawyer for some, but Gaxiola has made a name for himself by taking on the grittiest of defendants and their related crimes. He also doesn’t shy away from complex and high-profile cases. He’s sought out not just by clients, but by news organizations such as the New York Times for legal commentary.
As such, Gaxiola has built quite a reputation for himself. He’s never advertised on buses, television or paid billboards. Instead he relies on referrals from other lawyers and word of mouth from prior clients.
He’s defended very notable people, including Laura Smith, the former Scottsdale Unified School District chief financial officer who was indicted by a grand jury on charges of fraud and conflict of interest. He was also one of the first attorneys who filed to disqualify former Maricopa County attorney Andrew Thomas citing that legal action Thomas took against several judges and the county Board of Supervisors made it impossible for clients to receive fair trials.
Gaxiola has represented several members of the Hells Angels motorcycle club, handling about 20 different cases for the motorcycle club in Arizona since 2005. Gaxiola served as the attorney for Hells Angels member Mike Koepke, who was involved in an infamous 2010 shootout with a rival motorcycle club, the Vagos, in Chino Valley (north of Prescott). Koepke was facing decades-long prison sentences. After a two-year court battle with the Yavapai County Attorney’s Office involving numerous motions and hearings, Gaxiola was finally able to get the charges completely dismissed.
Even with the media attention, Gaxiola is very much down-to-earth and says he is an “open book.” While there’s never a “typical” day as an attorney, most days, Gaxiola, who is single, gets up at 5 a.m. every day to take his dogs for a run. After that, it’s morning court and he then heads into the office for the day. In his off time, Gaxiola enjoys international travel, hiking, running and hanging out with friends and family.
As a one-man practice, Gaxiola will take on any type of criminal case, whether it’s a violent felony, armed robbery, drug-related, homicide or white-collar crime as long he believes his work contribution can benefit the client.
“It’s really where I can help, not necessarily the nature of the charges. If I review the file and don’t think I can offer any benefit—such as the evidence is overwhelmingly against the client—I’ll turn it down. I won’t take advantage of the client. Each case I accept, I take on the basis that we’re going to do the work in the best interest of the client.”
Gaxiola likes being a small, specialized firm and doesn’t have any plans to grow into a volume-based practice.
“I want to provide quality representation,” he says. “I don’t want to have to rely on a specific volume of cases to pay salaries and benefits.”
With that said, Gaxiola will bring in additional attorneys and assistance if its needed, depending on caseload and complexity.
He handles cases across the state, in every county for his select niche of clientele. “Customers emanate from every demographic. There’s no hardline rule. They come from every walk of life. Prosecutors and police officers may not like me much,” he jokes. “But my clients know I provide quality representation for each and every client and that’s what counts.”
Gaxiola Law Group
One Renaissance Tower
2 N. Central Avenue, Suite 1800, Phoenix
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