Charges have been reinstated against the owners of a Gilbert dog-boarding facility where more than 20 dogs died last year.
However, the son and daughter-in-law of U.S. Senator Jeff Flake -- the caretakers of the facility at the time the air conditioning went out and led to the dogs' deaths -- will not face charges.
Maricopa County Attorney Bill Montgomery said Wednesday that he didn't want to give away the closing argument in the case but explained that owners Jesse and Maleisa Hughes are most culpable in the dogs' deaths.
Montgomery said that of the 21 felony charges against the Hugheses, the highest charges, of fraud, are due to a "fraud scheme that resulted in the large number of dogs that were present, contributing significantly to the circumstancing in which the dogs then died."
Late last year, prosecutors indicated all charges would be dropped against the Flakes, and many against the Hugheses, after defense attorneys argued that a Maricopa County Sheriff's Office detective who testified before a grand jury potentially "intentionally misdirected the jury and committed perjury" in his explanation of how the air conditioning went out in the room where the dogs were kept.
"After thoroughly reviewing the records and fairly considering the points raised in recent Defense motions, the theory of the case as initially presented to the Grand Jury did not take into account the possibility that there were issues with an air conditioning unit," Montgomery explained as the charges were dropped. "This could impact a Grand Jury's charging decision and how we might present a case to a trial jury."
However, Montgomery said that after another review of the case, the charges have been refiled against the Hugheses by another grand jury. They both face 21 felony charges and seven misdemeanor charges of animal cruelty, plus one count each of fraud.
Montgomery said there's no plan to charges the Flakes in the case.
"In looking at what the requirements are under the law for even a misdemeanor offense in this case, a reckless standard for the mental state is what's required for even a misdemeanor animal cruelty count, and it requires a particular awareness of the circumstances in which the dogs were kept, that could lead to their death," Montgomery explained of the reason not to charge the Flakes.
Meanwhile, Austin and Logan Flake, the son and daughter-in-law of the senator, are going after Sheriff Joe Arpaio and the county for $8 million, alleging a wrongful indictment in the case.
"Sheriff's deputies knew from the outset that the air conditioning [at Green Acre] had gone out unexpectedly in the middle of the night and originally dubbed the incident an accident," says a notice of claim filed by the Flakes. "The critical proof of a felony -- intent to harm the animals -- was clearly missing. The Sheriff was undeterred by the facts, however, and after conducting a rigged investigation, sent his detective in to lie to the grand jury."
Despite these allegations from the Flakes, Montgomery still faced questions yesterday that his office's decision to not charge the Flakes could be viewed as favoritism among a couple of Republican politicians.
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Montgomery seemed very defensive in answering, saying that he did indeed endorse Flake on the campaign trail, but Flake never endorsed him in return, so, "He did nothing for me."
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