A grand jury has indicted the four principal suspects, including the son of Arizona Senator Jeff Flake, in the deaths of more than 20 dogs at a Gilbert dog-boarding facility.
Austin Flake, his wife, Logan, and the owners of the facility, Jesse Todd and MaLeisa Hughes, now face multiple felony counts each and are scheduled to appear at a court hearing on October 23rd. It may be difficult to find a seat at that hearing, considering the public pillorying going on in this case. (Update: The October 23rd hearing has been postponed until October 29th.)
As investigators with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office took several weeks to investigate the late-June discovery of the dead dogs, the pets' owners and their supporters expressed their frustration with the lack of an arrest on social media, news media and in court with a civil lawsuit. A few supporters even picketed the Sheriff's Office, demanding action.
Sheriff Joe Arpaio announced on September 9 he was submitting the case to prosecutors, recommending numerous felony charges of "cruel neglect" of animals. At a news conference a few days later, County Attorney Bill Montgomery reminded the public that even if the suspects are convicted on many felonies, their sentences would likely run concurrently because each of the dog deaths resulted from a single incident. After smarting off on Facebook about Arpaio's desire for "strong felony charges" in the case, Montgomery was reportedly forced to meet with the sheriff to eat crow.
The grand jury seems to know what it was doing when it handed down an extra felony count on the Hugheses of "fraudulent schemes and artifices," a charge that apparently wasn't recommended by Arpaio's detectives. It makes sense, though, and the dog owners are making the claim in their civil lawsuit against the Hugheses. From what the dog-boarding facility's customers have been saying, the business owners flat-out lied about providing a caring, safe place for boarded pets. Nearly all of the dogs that died at the facility were found packed together in a small, stuffy room the owners hadn't been shown. They'd died of apparent suffocation, necropsies of some of the dogs showed. The Flakes and Hughes are alleged to used the room routinely to store the pets.
In a written statement, Montgomery said, "Today's indictment is the result of a thorough review of the extensive investigation into this incident and a decision to seek charges based on objective facts."
Montgomery's office released the following details about the charges:
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"The indictment charges Jesse and Maleisa Hughes with 22 felony counts and 7 misdemeanor counts of cruelty to animals, and one felony count of fraudulent schemes and artifices. Austin and Logan Flake are each charged with 21 felony counts and 7 misdemeanor counts of cruelty to animals."
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