On trial was Glen McGaughey, acclaimed by his peers in the Arizona dog-racing business as the most outstanding breeder in the state.
McGaughey's dogs won the most races. He made the most money. He was the best and the brightest of the cretinous lot that claims that greyhound racing is a civilized sport.
McGaughey is now the most prominent man in the Arizona greyhound-racing industry since John Harvey Adamson, also a dog trainer, placed a dynamite charge under Don Bolles' car.
To those uninitiated in the wondrous world of Arizona crime cum politics, Bolles was an Arizona Republic reporter who made the mistake of writing stories critical of the powers that run dog racing.
McGaughey's court appearance served to provide us all with an unaccustomed look behind the scenes of this strange underworld.
McGaughey, 64, a bulky man in an ill-fitting suit, sat there each day in court with his face reddening frequently, listening to the evidence build against him.
I never thought it was serious," McGaughey said when it was over. I never got scared until I heard them say I committed a felony. It was then I realized I could lose my license and be out of business." And why should McGaughey have been scared"? McGaughey, after all, was no different from any other breeder or trainer in the dog-racing business. They all treat their animals the same way.
The killing is indiscriminate. No one ever complains. No one knows. Only this time it was different.
For days, the fifth-floor courtroom of Judge Ronald Reinstein was packed by outraged animal lovers.
They were bursting with indignation over McGaughey's shooting of more than 100 greyhounds who were no longer able to win races for him.
The wasted carcasses of the dogs had been found tossed in an orchard adjacent to McGaughey's Chandler breeding farm.
The dog lovers not only packed Reinstein's court but they demonstrated on the street in front of the courthouse as well. They also wrote scores of letters to the judge characterizing McGaughey as a mass murderer.
Then the media build-up began. Television cameras were moved into the courtroom for daily reports. The reporters from all the papers and radio stations began showing up. Suddenly, without anyone planning it, this had turned into a big story.
But let me make this simple for you.
Here is all you need to know about the dirty business they call dog racing.
The dog-track lobbyists own our state legislators. For this simple reason, there are no laws holding dog owners and trainers like McGaughey to any real standard of civilized behavior.
When the dogs can't run fast enough to make money for their owners, they are shot to death and tossed away. There is no Arizona law against the indiscriminate killing of healthy dogs. You can kill all of them you want. You just can't toss the dead bodies on other people's property.
The dogs are raised in large numbers and they are killed just as fast. Only the winners survive-for a time. But the end is the same for all racing dogs. This is an iron fact of the business.
The only reason McGaughey was caught is because he is by nature a thrifty man. For years he had been shooting his used-up dogs and tossing their bodies into his trash dumpsters.
But the company that removed McGaughey's trash wanted more money from him to cart off the dead animals.
So, to save money, McGaughey hit on a simple plan. Whenever he had to remove a few laggard dogs from his collection, he would load them in the back of his truck and drive them to an adjoining piece of property in Chandler.
McGaughey was good at killing dogs. He admitted doing it himself because most of the trainers he hired were squeamish about this part of the job. They viewed it as unpleasant." McGaughey shot the dogs in the side of the head and then cut off their left ears, which contained identifying serial numbers. Then he tossed the carcasses away in the field and drove off.
Who would ever know whose dogs they were, he thought? Who could ever prove anything against him?
But investigators John Wagner, a special agent of the Attorney General's Office, and Steve Lump, of the Arizona Racing Board, conducted an exhaustive inquiry.
Upon going through McGaughey's killing field, they found the carcasses of approximately 140 dogs. Then they began exhaustive questioning of people in the dog business.
Finally, they found Mike Pendergast. He was a former trainer for McGaughey who had lived on the property for several years. He could tie McGaughey to the killings.
Faced with this, McGaughey confessed to Wagner and arranged to plead guilty.
It turned out that the killings by McGaughey were a late-afternoon ritual. He would load up his truck with three or four dogs and put his .22 caliber pistol on the front seat. Then McGaughey would drive off with them.
Half an hour later, when McGaughey returned, the truck would be empty. In McGaughey's words, the dogs had been put down."
For almost a full court day, witnesses were put on the stand by McGaughey's defense attorney, William Stine, to discredit Pendergast, the man who had fingered McGaughey.
The most interesting was Bob Erskine, an angry-looking, heavyset man with a large, black mustache, who had also worked as a trainer for McGaughey.
For several days he had been fulminating in the hall outside court about the do-gooders" and kooks" who wanted to destroy dog racing in Arizona.
To hear Erskine talk, you would think the powers who run dog racing here in Arizona are as high-minded as the people who raised Secretariat in Kentucky.
Erskine worked for McGaughey as a trainer for several years. His employment coincided with the employment of Pendergast for six months.
Was Pendergast an honest person?" Stine, the lawyer, asked.
Erskine sat silently for what seemed a long time. He stared straight ahead.
Then, speaking very slowly and distinctly, he said:
I'd have to say...no!" Stine nodded his head.
Pendergast has said he knew that Mr. McGaughey had taken 80 to 100 dogs out into that field, killed them and left them there. Could that be true?" It's not possible," Erskine said. If he put that many dogs down, he'd be out of business." To Erskine, McGaughey was a dog lover who gave his pets away for adoption or took them to the Arizona Humane Society. The charges against him were both greatly exaggerated and false.
But Leesa Morrison, the assistant attorney general trying the case, decimated this defense with her cross-examination of Erskine.
Mr. Erskine, have you ever performed any cruel acts to dogs?" Erskine grinned with self-assurance.
No," he said confidently.
But that apparently isn't quite true of the way you behave toward humans?" Morrison asked.
Erskine looked startled.
Isn't it true that in 1991, you attacked two dog-track officials and were fined $300 and suspended for 30 days?" Erskine recoiled with anger in the witness chair.
Yes," he said, his eyes narrowing.
And isn't it true that in 1990 you were charged at the track with disorderly conduct, assault and making threats, and fined $200?" Yes," Erskine said sullenly.
And isn't it true that you were fined $100 in May 1989 for using foreign substances on dogs?" Yes," Erskine answered, his head down.
And wasn't there still another charge placed against you of acting in an abusive manner to a mutuel clerk?" Erskine sat rigidly in the witness chair. He said nothing.
I have no further questions," Morrison said.
In a few minutes of cross-examination, Morrison's questions had elicited answers that drew a vivid picture of everyday life at Arizona's dog tracks.
McGaughey's wife, Thelma, also took the stand as a defense witness. She told how difficult it was to make a profit from dog racing.
She explained that they had started back in 1968 when they bought their first two dogs. Over the years, they built to more than 100 at a time. They not only raced their own dogs but housed and ran dogs owned by other owners, too, she said.
Mrs. McGaughey complained about economic conditions.
Prices have gone up," she said, and the handle at the track has stayed the same. For winning a race, you might get $500. It was becoming increasingly difficult to make a profit from it." Nevertheless, McGaughey was voted to have the top kennel in the state last year. In the world of greyhound racing, he was the top winner.
When McGaughey pleaded guilty to the felony charge placed against him, his license was revoked. His dogs were taken away. He is no longer in the dog-racing business.
McGaughey finally stood before Judge Reinstein to be sentenced. His hands shook.
I have been suspended from racing," McGaughey said. I'm completely out of business. It takes years to build up a thing like this. We've lost our livelihood.
I know it's wrong to litter, but I had no idea it could be a felony. This puts me out of the greyhound-racing business which my wife and I have been proud to be in for 20 years." ²Judge Reinstein sentenced McGaughey to serve 30 days in the county jail and to pay a fine of $25,000.
I don't think you're the worst person in the world," Reinstein said.
But as someone unfamiliar with the racing industry, I find it incredible there are no other laws about this." Of course there are no other laws and there never will be.
Dog racing is off-limits to the Arizona legislature. They have been bought off for years. There's no prospect of change.
There are no laws holding dog owners and trainers to any real standard of civilized behavior.
If you like this story, consider signing up for our email newsletters.
SHOW ME HOW
You have successfully signed up for your selected newsletter(s) - please keep an eye on your mailbox, we're movin' in!
He shot the dogs in the side of the head and then cut off their left ears, which contained identifying ®MD120¯ Col 2, Depth P55.00 I9.17 ®MDNM¯serial numbers. ÔI know it's wrong
®MD120¯ Col 3, Depth P5.07 I0.93 ®MDNM
THE GOVERNOR'S LECKIE... v4-22-92