Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery says a corrections officer won't be charged for leaving his K9 service dog in his vehicle, where the dog died last month.
Department of Corrections Officer Jesse Dorantes left the dog in the back of his patrol car, and left that vehicle in a DOC parking lot as he went home to take care of his child, who was sick.
According to the county attorney's office, Dorantes showed up for work as scheduled at 6 a.m. on April 9 at the state prison complex in Buckeye, and told his supervisor that his child was sick and couldn't be left at daycare. Not long after that, the supervisor let Dorantes go home and take care of his kid, at which point his 7-year-old K9 partner Ike was left in the back of the patrol vehicle.
According to information provided by the county attorney's office, "Investigators noted that Ike was a quiet dog and would not have made noise or been active in the back of the vehicle. When interviewed, Officer Dorantes expressed deep remorse and was forthcoming about his actions. A Department of Corrections administrative investigation into the incident is pending."
There was a somewhat similar care involving a Chandler cop several years ago, in which Officer Thomas Lovejoy was arrested by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office and charged with animal cruelty after his K9 partner died after being left in a hot car.
Lovejoy's defense was that he was sleep-deprived after working consecutive days of long hours, and completely forgot that he left his dog, Bandit, in the back of his patrol SUV.
Lovejoy eventually was acquitted of the misdemeanor charge. Although state law says it's a misdemeanor if someone, "Intentionally, knowingly or recklessly leaves an animal unattended and confined in a motor vehicle and physical injury to or death of the animal is likely to result," the judge in the case reportedly ruled that recklessness was not proved.
In a statement from County Attorney Montgomery, he says the Lovejoy case was a factor in deciding against the prosecution of Dorantes.
"In comparing the two cases, we have even less favorable evidence now than what was presented in that previous matter," Montgomery says.
Not only was Lovejoy acquitted in that case, but he also earned a $775,000 settlement from Maricopa County. Lovejoy had filed a lawsuit against Sheriff Joe Arpaio, claiming Arpaio ordered the arrest and turned it into a made-for-TV publicity stunt.
MCSO referred to the settlement as a "good business decision."
Coincidentally, the Lovejoy case was prosecuted under the reign of then-County Attorney Andrew Thomas, by Deputy County Attorney Lisa Aubuchon. Thomas and Aubuchon were disbarred a few years later by an Arizona Supreme Court disciplinary panel on abuse-of-power charges.
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As for this case, and Dorantes, the corrections officer still faces an investigation from the Department of Corrections, and possible discipline from that.
"This was a tragic accident that was preventable and, perhaps to many people, unforgivable," County Attorney Montgomery says in his statement. "But based on our review of the totality of the circumstances surrounding the incident, the available evidence does not provide a reasonable likelihood of conviction."
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