Career aspirations of political animal run headlong into the carcasses of dead pets causing prosecutor to act like a public defender
So what do you do when you’re the chief prosecutor in the most populous county in Arizona and the country’s most renown and fearless sheriff sends you felony recommendations following a completed investigation?
Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio did just that recently, forwarding twenty-one charges of animal neglect and cruelty to Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery. The recommendation of charges came after an arduous and professional three-month investigation related to the heinous deaths of dogs supposedly being cared for at a Gilbert kennel bearing the menacingly funereal name Green Acre. Arpaio, a champion of animals, has had an Animal Crimes Investigations Unit as part of his office for over a decade.
Todd and MaLeisa Hughes, the owners of the kennel, were vacationing in Florida, leaving the dogs in the care of their daughter Logan and her husband Austin. When they returned, Todd Hughes initially told the pet owners their dogs had all run away. Later they claimed the deaths of nearly two dozen dogs were the result of an accident when a dog chewed through an air-conditioning electrical cord, disabling the unit. The dogs died an agonizing death, suffocating in the small utility room in which they were crammed together on a searingly hot June day. The dead dogs were then carted out to a storage shed where they were callously dumped.
The veterinarian who performed necropsies on some of the dogs indicated suffocation was the likely cause of death.
Austin Flake is the son of Arizona Senator Jeff Flake. And this is where things begin to get dicey.
Montgomery has career aspirations that are rumored to include the state’s second senate seat, when McCain finally moves on. Obviously how he chooses to handle this widely scrutinized case could have devastating consequences for his ambitions.
At a recent press conference in which he exhibited raw insensitivity to the grieving pet owners, Montgomery gave more than a few clues (video) as to his bent. “This isn’t to cheapen or minimize the loss of the pets to the families,” Montgomery said. “But we’re not talking about the deaths of 23 children.”
Oddly, Montgomery used the occasion to slam his predecessor‘s administration, and repeatedly said there are no assurances of convictions, becoming a broken record stating the office standard of a “reasonable likelihood of conviction.”
The harshest punishment Austin and Logan Flake might receive is the inability to ever own an animal in Maricopa County. No joke. The Maricopa County Attorney actually noted that as a potential penalty.
Okay. We get it. When the prosecutor sounds more like a public defender, expressing concerns over what the “impact to someone’s life in the future” might be after being charged with a felony, it becomes all too clear that Montgomery sees his own future looming before him. If it crashes or soars could well depend on 21 dead pups and a couple of rabbits.