There was no justice for Nala in Baltimore this week.
A Baltimore Circuit Court judge on Thursday acquitted a former city police officer charged with animal cruelty, misconduct and mutilating an animal after he slit the seven-year-old Shar-Pei’s throat in the summer of 2014.
Judge Melissa M. Phinn said the state did not present adequate evidence that proved Jeffrey Bolger, 50, was responsible for the death.
That despite the fact he pulled out a knife and drew it across the throat of a dog already restrained by a catchpole — after uttering, at least according to one witness, “I’m going to gut this thing.”
Phinn noted that the verdict might not be popular, but said the evidence indicated the officer was acting in the interest of public safety and putting the dog out of it’s misery.
She also noted that Maryland’s Chief Medical Examiner David R. Fowler testified that the dog likely was dead before her throat was cut.
Phinn said that Bolger would not have the expertise to know the dog was already dead when he slit its throat.
Bolger’s attorneys — attempting to cover all the bases — had argued both that the dog was already dead and that Bolger was attempting to euthanize the dog in the most humane way possible.
“Rather than have a dog suffer needlessly, a dog that was going to be tested for rabies, he decided to make an incision,” said Bolger’s attorney, Steven H. Levin, said as he left the courthouse with his client on Thursday.
Apparently, at least according to the defense arguments the judge bought, Bolger — or should we call him Dr. Bolger — decided to euthanize an already subdued dog he wasn’t sure was dead or alive out of the goodness of his heart with his trusty pocket knife.
Contrary to the state medical examiner’s findings, a necropsy performed by a doctor working for the city’s animal control determined a cut artery led to the dog’s death.
The state medical examiner said those findings were faulty, and while some witnesses said they heard the dog whimper and that her eyes remained opened before Bolger cut her, the medical examiner testified that both signs are not uncommon even after death.
The judge noted that, while one witness said they heard Bolger say, “I’m going to gut this thing,” another person within earshot did not recall him use the phrase.
Prosecutor Paul O’Connor had argued the Bolger had no reason to slit the dog’s throat, saying she was already restrained when Bolger cut her.
Bolger’s attorneys argued that the officer did not have proper equipment to sedate the dog, that the dog choked “itself” to death while on the pole, and that Bolger used the knife to protect the public.
Both that pole and Nala’s collar “disappeared” long before the trial started.
Nala escaped from her yard last year and was spotted roaming the streets of a Highlandtown neighborhood. Police were called after she bit a pregnant woman who was trying to rescue her from traffic.
Bolger had no comment to reporters at the trial’s conclusion, other than to thank his attorneys. The dog’s owner, Sarah Gossard, 30, left the courtroom in tears.
In a Facebook post Thursday, she said she was “heartbroken,” by the judge’s verdict.
“I do believe that just because this judge didn’t find the evidence sufficient, that doesn’t mean that he didn’t kill her. I don’t feel that justice was served but I can only hope that Nala’s death has raised animal cruelty awareness.”
After the trial, Bolger’s attorneys talked about their client’s suffering — that’s right, Bolger’s suffering.
Levin said the case drew nationally publicity, negatively affected his client’s life and forced him to retire early from the police department and suffered after having been suspended without pay.
State’s Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Rochelle Ritchie said her office was disappointed by the judge’s decision. “It will not deter us from pursuing and prosecuting those who commit heinous acts against animals,” she said.
Katie Flory, who heads the Mayor’s Anti-Animal Abuse Advisory Commission and is director of Community Affairs for the Maryland SPCA, said she was also disappointed by the verdict.
“We are very sad and frustrated to hear that a guilty verdict was not given today. It shows us that we have a lot more work to do when it comes to the egregious acts to animals in our city,” she told the Baltimore Sun.
“We are very sad for Sarah’s family,” Flory added. “It’s not going to bring Nala back and we hoped for justice for Nala, and for her family.”
Posted by John Woestendiek November 20th, 2015 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animal cruelty, animals, baltimore, catch pole, catchpole, circuit court, cut, death, dog, dogs, jeffrey bolger, judge melissa phinn, killed, mutilation, nala, not guilty, officer, pets, police, shar-pei, sharpei, slashed, slit, throat, verdict