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Tag: not guilty

Baltimore police officer who cut dog’s throat is found not guilty of all charges

nala

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.

An incision???

bolgerApparently, 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.”

Baltimore cop who slit dog’s throat was being heroic, his attorneys say

bolger

Lawyers for a Baltimore police officer who slit the throat of a sharpei on a city street in June tried to put a new spin on his actions in court last week, entering a not guilty plea and suggesting Officer Jeffrey Bolger was heroically trying to save the unborn child of the pregnant woman the dog had bitten.

Fortunately, the judge didn’t immediately buy it, and declined a request from defense lawyers to dismiss the animal cruelty charges filed against Bolger.

The pregnant woman, meanwhile, is calling bullshit.

“Don’t try and make yourself a hero when you made a grave mistake,” she said in a a radio interview last week, after Bolger’s initial court appearance. “Try and say I’m sorry.”

In court on Thursday, lawyers for the 22-year veteran of the police force said Bolger was “legally authorized” to kill the dog, named Nala, and that he was acting to protect the unborn child of a woman the dog had bitten.

He entered a not guilty plea to two counts of animal mutilation, one count of animal cruelty and one count of misconduct in office. Both Bolger, 49, and a second officer, who held Nala while Bolger slit her throat, have been suspended.

His attorney’s reasoning went like this: Had the dog escaped from police, the woman would have had to undergo a series of rabies shots, putting her baby at risk. Due to that, and the dangers the attorney said the dog posed to citizens nearby, Bolger made the decision to “euthanize” Nala in the safest manner possible.

“Bolger considered using his firearm, but he determined that there was too much danger of a ricochet bullet injuring bystanders,” his lawyers said. “Instead, he used his knife in a fashion intended to cause the dog the least amount of pain and place the public in the least amount of danger.”

What’s underplayed in attorney’s brief is that, when that decision was made, the dog had already been subdued with a catch pole.

The attorneys said Bolger and other officers struggled with the dog for more than an hour, the Baltimore Sun reported.

And they said Bolger didn’t say “I’m going to gut this (expletive) thing,” as some witnesses reported. Instead, they submit, he said he was going to have to “cut” the dog because of the lack of other available options.

Among those who found the attorney’s statements ludicrous was Sandy Fleischer, the pregnant woman who was trying to help the dog and keep police from harming her. She spoke out after the incident — and she did so again after Bolger’s hearing.

“To say that you were helping me and trying to save my life? I was there to help the dog,” Sandy Fleischer said. “I can’t believe they are using me for the defense.”

In an interview Thursday on WBAL Radio’s C4 Show, Fleischer said she was upset that the fact she was pregnant — something she confided only to the paramedic treating her — had made its way to police and into the courtroom.

Fleischer was nipped by the dog as she tried to get a look at her collar, so she could get in touch with the dog’s owner.

When she first recounted the incident on the radio show, months ago, Fleischer said the officers who first arrived on the scene used sticks to try and corral the dog, which only served to intensify the situation. She said officers calling the dog a pit bull.

She said police had her ushered to the ambulance “because they didn’t want me seeing the dog being killed.”

A second officer, Thomas Schmidt, 53, is accused of holding the dog down while Bolger cut her throat and is scheduled to appear in court later this month.

The judge, while declining to immediately grant the request for a dismissal requested by Bolger’s attorneys, didn’t rule out further arguments and consideration of the motion.

Bolger’s trial date is scheduled for Nov. 7.

(Photo: Ian Duncan / Baltimore Sun)

Patrick’s owner enters not guilty plea


A not guilty plea was entered Friday on behalf of Kisha Curtis, the Newark woman accused of animal cruelty charges stemming from the discovery of a dog who’d been tossed down a trash chute and left to die in a garbage bin.

The 1-year-old pit bull, whose rescuers named him Patrick, continues to recover at an area animal hospital.

Public defender Regina Lynch entered the plea in Superior Court in Newark on behalf of Curtis, 27, the Newark Star-Ledger reported. She appeared at the hearing via a video hookup from the Essex County Jail.

Curtis faces two counts of tormenting and torturing a living creature by failing to provide sustenance and two counts of abandonment, said Assistant Essex County Prosecutor Cheryl Cucinello.

After the hearing, Kisha’s mother, Tammie Curtis, said her daughter didn’t discard the dog, but only left him tethered at the high-rise Garden Spires apartments in Newark — while she went on a trip to Albany. She implied that the dog was stolen.

“Anybody would take that dog,” the mother said. “If she tied the dog, she didn’t leave the dog to die.”

A security guard at the 520-unit complex told the Star-Ledger that the dog had been seen tied to a railing with a leather leash, and had been the subject of resident complaints for more than a month.

“It would whimper, and it would yelp when you would come up to it,” Ortman said.

A custodian found Patrick on March 16, inside a trash bag at the bottom of a 22-story garbage chute.

Judge Amilkar Velez-Lopez kept Curtis’ bail at $10,000 bond or $1,000 cash and forbid her to have contact with pets. If convicted, she faces 18 months in prison, a $3,000 fine and community service.

Patrick has been recovering at Garden State Veterinary Specialists in Tinton Falls, where he has gained two pounds since being found.

Romero pleads not guilty in dragging death

Steven Clay Romero — accused in dragging a dog named Buddy to his death at Colorado National Monument– pleaded not guilty to animal cruelty charges in federal court Wednesday.

His sister, 32-year-old Melissa Lockhart, failed to appear at her hearing, and a warrant for her arrest was issued.

Romero is accused of dragging the dog for three miles behind his pick-up truck last month. Lockhart, who allegedly stole the dog from a couple in Delta, reportedly told Romero to get rid of Buddy after he mauled a family cat. She is also charged with animal cruelty.

In court yesterday, Romero’s attorney asked for more time to review the case. He told the judge he has received more than 930 pages of discovery evidence including numerous CD’s and DVD’s, according to KJCT in Grand Junction.

Before the hearing, supporters of Buddy delivered to the U.S. District Attorney petitions with more than 100,000 signatures the suspects receive the maximum sentence if convicted.

(For our previous posts on Buddy, click here.)

Twins plead not guilty in burning of Phoenix

phoenix4Twin brothers Tremayne and Travers Johnson entered pleas of not guilty Friday to animal cruelty charges in connection with the death of Phoenix, a pit bull puppy set on fire in Baltimore this summer.

The 17-year-olds, charged as adults, are being held without bail. Their trials are scheduled for February and March, the Baltimore Sun reports. Both are are also charged, in connection with a separate case, with gun and drug possession.

Phoenix was found burning by a police officer. She survived for several days before taking a turn for the worse and having to be put down.

Man who spray-painted dog found not guilty

A contractor who spray-painted a dog who barked at him was found not guilty of animal cruelty by a DeKalb County State Court jury yesterday.

Dario Harris maintained he was afraid of the black lab mix, named Bear — and worried that, even though the dog was in a fenced backyard, it could have jumped the fence and attacked him, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported.

Harris was marking utility lines with fluorescent orange paint outside Jeffrey Tompkins’ Stone Mountain home.

In an interview before the trial, Harris said he loves dogs and “was just trying to protect myself.”

“You have to look at what’s reasonable under the circumstances,” said Harris’ attorney, Gerald Griggs. “The jury got to hear his actual intentions that day.  There were two dogs, both weighing over 60 pounds, jumping at a fence. You don’t know if they were nice dogs or mean dogs. He did not intend to injure Bear in any form or fashion. He was just scared.”

Harris wants to pay the veterinary bill, Griggs added.

Solicitor Robert James said he was disappointed in the verdict. “This is not going to change the way we do things in DeKalb County,” he said. “We take animal abuse very seriously, it’s wrong, and we’re going to continue to stand up for pet owners and animals, continue to hold people accountable.”

Toll, of dog taping fame, pleads not guilty

rexAbby Toll, the University of Colorado student accused of taping her boyfriend’s dog, Rex, to the refrigerator during an argument, entered a not guilty plea to animal cruelty and drug charges Friday.

Toll arrived at the Boulder County Justice Center to see animal-lovers, many with their pets, toting signs demanding justice for Rex.

Toll, 20, who is now is living in Chicago, had the drug charge filed against her after police said they found heroin on her when she was booked into Boulder County Jail on April 14, according to Coloradodaily.com.

abbytoll_t200Toll’s attorney, George Kokus, said he might file a change-of-venue request because “of the amount of hate mail we’ve received.” He said Toll’s case should be viewed as a “domestic violence” matter and said “she was the human victim.”

Her boyfriend, Brian Beck, 21, also faces misdemeanor animal-cruelty and false-imprisonment charges. Kokus said Beck wouldn’t let Toll leave their apartment and took away her cell phone.

“How would any woman react?” he said.

(Editorial comment: I can think of several alternatives that might be slightly more effective than taping a dog to the refrigerator.)

Beck is scheduled to accept a plea deal on his charges July 15. Toll is due back in court for a motions hearing Oct. 27.

Toll was arrested April 14 on suspicion of binding her boyfriend’s 2-year-old shiba inu, Rex, in packing tape and sticking him upside-down to the refrigerator during a fight. At the time of her arrest, Toll told police, “I know this looks bad. We were going to get rid of him anyway. We usually don’t do this.”

Rex is now in a new home in Castle Rock. Her new owners held a contest in May to rename the abused puppy. Online voters chose Yoshi — a Japanese word for “good luck.”