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Jury finds former sheriff Arpaio wasn’t malicious in prosecution of Sen. Flake’s son

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The son of U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake was not maliciously prosecuted when Sheriff Joe Arpaio sought to bring charges against him in connection with the deaths of 21 dogs at an Arizona kennel, a civil court jury has ruled.

Four people, including Flake’s son, Austin, were indicted on 21 felony counts of animal cruelty in connection with the 2014 deaths, attributed to heat exhaustion.

Then-Sheriff Arpaio urged the filing of the charges against Austin Flake and his then-wife, Logan Brown, who had been supervising the care of the dogs at the Green Acre boarding kennel in Gilbert while its owners, Brown’s parents, were away.

All charges were later were dropped by the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office because the grand jury didn’t hear about issues with the air-conditioning in the room where the dogs were kept.

Flake and Brown sued Arpaio for malicious prosecution in 2015. The lawsuit didn’t ask for a specific amount in damages, but an earlier notice of claim sought $8 million.

Last week a panel of eight jurors in a civil trial against Arpaio decided Flake had not proven the prosecutions were malicious.

U.S. District Judge Neil V. Wake did not issue a final verdict, saying he is awaiting an explanation from defense attorneys on their failure to turn over documents that may have benefited the plaintiffs.

Jurors began deliberating at 5 p.m. Thursday and reached a verdict 90 minutes later, the Arizona Republic reported.

Arpaio and plaintiffs’ attorney Stephen Montoya confirmed the outcome of the case after a six-day trial.

Montoya said Arpaio used the case to boost his image through publicity stunts and by holding repeated press conferences. He pointed to a press conference in which Arpaio showed the media photos of the dead dogs, and a Sheriff’s Office-commissioned helicopter search for one dog from the kennel who had gone missing.

Montoya in his closing arguments said that while there was media interest in the case before Arpaio’s involvement, the lawman inflamed the coverage.

“Would there have been publicity? Sure. Would it have died down but for Sheriff Joe releasing press releases, including the pictures of the dead dogs?… Sheriff Joe wouldn’t let it die down, and then these kids were indicted,” Montoya said.

“I want to thank the jury of my peers for their decision in the Flake lawsuit,” Arpaio said after verdict. “We’ll have more to say about the Flake situation and the politics at the appropriate time.”

Arpaio was pardoned by President Trump in August, sparing the controversial former sheriff a jail sentence after he was convicted of criminal contempt related to his hard-line tactics going after undocumented immigrants.

(Photo: Ross D. Franklin / AP)