Archive for January, 2012

Jan
01

State of Arizona v. Lovejoy

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This not guilty verdict was including among a number of high profile cases entrusted to now disgraced former prosecutor Lisa Aubuchon.  Judge Neil Wake recounts in his recent ruling denying the Defendant’s motion for summary judgement:

Lovejoy’s case went to a bench trial in front of a Justice of the Peace on August 15, 2008. After Aubuchon presented the State’s case, Lovejoy’s defense attorney moved for a directed verdict: Judge, the statute as we’ve been talking about all morning requires the culpable mental state of recklessly. And for the State to prove that, they have to show that Sergeant Lovejoy was aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk, i.e., the dog was in the car, and that if he left him in there, he would die or become injured. . . . They have shown that he left the car “ the dog in the car. No one is disputing that. They haven’t shown . . . that he knew the dog was back there, but disregarded the risk that he might die. (Doc. 93-1 at 56.) In response, Aubuchon argued, We don’t have to show that he knowingly left the dog in the car. . . . *** We are not arguing that he knew he left the dog in the car, because we would have charged it that way. We’re arguing that he’s reckless. And it is his very conduct and the choices he made that shows he substantially disregarded that risk. Everybody knows that in August in Arizona it is hot in a car. And a trained K-9 officer should be on heightened awareness about what will happen if he forgets the dog in the car. (Doc. 93-1 at 57.) At the close of argument, the Court announced without elaboration, “At this time I’m going to deny the directed verdict.” (Doc. 93-1 at 62.) Lovejoy then put on his defense, after which the Court stated: “All of these so-called distractions [presented by the State as evidence of recklessness] . . . don’t equal “ it doesn’t equal to me to be recklessness. State did not meet their “ their burden here and I find [Lovejoy] not guilty.”

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Jan
01

County Attorney Andrew Thomas’ Decision to take Lovejoy to trial

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As recounted in Judge Wake’s recent ruling:

Andrew Thomas, then the Maricopa County Attorney, assigned Leonard Ruiz, third in command at the County Attorney’s Office and chief of the trial division, to supervise Lovejoy’s case. Ruiz was never told why he received the assignment. He could not recall another instance of a person with his seniority at the County Attorney’s Office being asked to assist in prosecuting a misdemeanor animal cruelty offense. Deputy County Attorney Anthony Church, who specializes in animal cruelty cases, received the assignment to handle day-to-day tasks associated with the Lovejoy prosecution. Soon after he received the assignment, Church formed the opinion that the case against Lovejoy was weak: [F]rom all the information I had gathered from the police report, [Lovejoy] cared very much about the animal, and I had a hard time believing that he would consciously recognize that the dog was in the back of the car and leave the dog there intentionally or ‚or, you know, understanding that he would be coming back but knowing the dog was back there.

On March 7, 2008, Church and Ruiz jointly requested an “incident review.” An incident review involves submitting the case to a board of senior attorneys who evaluate whether the case should go forward. Church and Ruiz’s written request summarized Simonson’s findings and added, A defense interview with Detective Rob Simonson took place in early February. According to Detective Simonson there is no evidence, which he can point toward, to show that Lovejoy did not simply forget that the dog was in the car. Detective Simonson told the defense attorney the only evidence that exists to prove the reckless mindset is that Lovejoy put the dog into the car and Lovejoy failed to take the dog out of the car, causing the dog’s death. (Doc. 101-2 at 4.) Church and Ruiz then quoted the animal cruelty statute under which Lovejoy was charged (see p. 5, above) and the definition of “recklessly” (see p. 8, above) and concluded: Recklessness requires that the person actually be “aware” of the risk being created by his conduct. In re William G., 192 Ariz. 208, 963 P. 2d 287 (App. 1997). This case needs to be set for incident review to determine whether we have probable cause to prosecute this case and whether we can ethically prosecute this case. (Id. at 5 (emphasis in original).) On March 11, 2008, another Deputy County Attorney, Jeff Trudgian, submitted a memo to Chief Deputy Philip J. MacDonell regarding the Lovejoy case. The memo begins, “Mr. Thomas requested research on the issue of whether “awareness’ of the risk, as needed for a finding of recklessness, can entail forgetfulness “ specifically, as applied to a K-9 police officer with specialized training regarding animal handling.” (Id. at 8.) Trudgian analyzed various cases and the relevant statutes and concluded, The problem is the element of “conscious disregard” that the results would occur or the circumstance exists. It cannot be argued that a person who truly forgot an animal in a vehicle consciously disregarded a known risk. . . .  . . . [T]he facts appear legally insufficient for conviction. (Id. at 10 (emphasis in original).)

On March 28, 2008, yet another Deputy County Attorney, Linda Van Brakel, submitted a memo titled “Lovejoy analysis” to Jim Beene, whose position is unidentified. The memo quotes Church and Ruiz’s statement of facts (contained in their incident review request) and then analyzes the relevant law as applied to those facts. Similar to Trudgian’s memo, Van Brakel’s states, Lovejoy knew the dog was in the car because he placed him there, but the evidence shows he completely forgot about him. In other words, although Lovejoy was no doubt aware of the risk of leaving a dog in a hot car that long, he did not consciously disregard that risk. He simply forgot. That may be negligent, but it is probably not criminally reckless. (Id. at 27 (emphasis in original).) Van Brakel considered but rejected a recklessness argument based on sleep deprivation: Lovejoy should have realized that he was sleep-deprived and might forget about the dog. However, police officers working graveyard shifts, swing shi[f]ts, off-duty jobs, and getting called out at all hours, are commonly sleep deprived and this might be considered normal for a police officer. In other words, loading the dog in the car under the circumstances probably did not create a substantial risk of harm constituting a gross “flagrant and extreme” deviation from the conduct of a police officer or K9 officer. Leaving him in the car, of course, would create a substantial risk of harm constituting a gross deviation from the conduct of a K9 officer, but we lack the “conscious disregard” of such a risk. (Id.) Van Brakel ultimately concluded, “I do not believe there is a reasonable likelihood that it can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt that Lovejoy acted with criminal recklessness, causing Bandit’s death.” (Id. at 31.) The record before the Court does not reveal whether County Attorney Thomas reviewed any of this material. However, he turned down Church and Ruiz’s incident review request.

In a less than shocking turn of events, Andrew Thomas disregarded all of the advice he was given about prosecuting Officer Lovejoy and turned the case over to his ever-faithful servant, Lisa Aubuchon (who is facing currently facing disciplinary proceedings with her former boss).

Contact a Phoenix Criminal Lawyer today if you are facing criminal charges.

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Jan
01

More excerpts from Judge Wake’s ruling in the Lovejoy – Arpaio case

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Judge wake goes on to recount the factual allegations regarding the Sheriff’s news conference:

While Lovejoy was driving in, Arpaio held a press conference announcing that Lovejoy had been arrested. Lovejoy claims he learned of his supposed arrest when a reporter reached him on his cell phone while still driving to the station. When Lovejoy arrived at the station, Summers and Simonson arrested him (without handcuffs) and moved him through the processing, booking, and initial appearance process. An unspecified Sheriff’s Office employee asked the commissioner presiding at the initial appearance to set bail, but the commissioner refused and released Lovejoy. That same day, the Sheriff’s Office issued a news release‚regarding the arrest. Arpaio testified at his deposition that he reviewed it and approved‚the news release “[t]o be disseminated to the media.” … The news release quotes Arpaio as saying that the decision to book Lovejoy into jail was “difficult” but “Lovejoy must be treated like anyone else in similar circumstances. I have a strict policy on animal abuse and neglect whereby offenders are booked into jail.’” … At his deposition, Arpaio confirmed that he made this statement. The news release further quotes Arpaio as saying, “Our investigation determined that Bandit’s death was not an intentional act on Lovejoy’s part, but it was reckless and for that, Lovejoy must be charged.’” … When asked about this statement at his deposition, Arpaio replied, “That’s what the investigate‚ investigators said, I presume.”  He was then asked, “You knew when you stepped in front of the cameras [at the press conference] to announce that [Lovejoy] was being charged and put into jail, booked into jail, that [he] had not done anything intentional to hurt that poor dog, didn’t you?” Arpaio responded, “Well, I’m not going to get into the law, whether it’s intentional or not.”…

It doesn’t take a high profile case like this for a rush to judgement to damage one’s rights.  If you or a loved one are being investigated for a criminal offense, contact a Scottsdale Criminal Attorney today.

Categories : Criminal Law, Politics
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Jan
01

Maricopa County Sheriff’s motion for summary judgment denied

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District court Judge Neil Wake recited the following undisputed facts:

That night, he had trouble sleeping because he did not feel well. Around 2:00 a.m. on Saturday, August 11, Lovejoy’s lieutenant at the Chandler Police Department awoke Lovejoy with a phone call. The lieutenant reported a possible sighting of a serial rapist that had recently been terrorizing the Chandler community. Lovejoy’s lieutenant asked Lovejoy to report for duty. Lovejoy agreed, but instead of getting out of bed, he fell back asleep because he was extremely tired. About an hour later, Lovejoy’s lieutenant called again. Lovejoy then got out of bed, put on his uniform, put Bandit into his police SUV, and began driving toward the scene. As he drove, he spoke with his lieutenant again by cell phone. In frustration, the lieutenant told Lovejoy to return home. Lovejoy did so and placed Bandit in his backyard kennel, but Lovejoy did not go back to sleep because he was upset with himself for falling asleep after his lieutenant’s first phone call that morning. By this time, Lovejoy had slept only about six-and-a-half hours over the previous two days. Lovejoy volunteered for an extra-duty traffic control shift that morning beginning at 6:00 a.m. He was not required to bring Bandit with him but he brought Bandit anyway because, he says, he wanted to be prepared if the serial rapist was again spotted. Although the record is somewhat hazy, it appears that Lovejoy and Bandit both remained in the SUV for the entire shift, which ended at 9:00 a.m. Lovejoy believes that Bandit had fallen asleep in his kennel by this point because daytime was Bandit’s usual sleep time. While driving home, Lovejoy received various cell phone calls and was still talking on his phone when he pulled into his driveway, exited his vehicle, and walked into his house. Lovejoy did not take Bandit out of the SUV. For the rest of the day, Lovejoy attended to various family obligations, including helping his stepson with a minor car accident, shopping with one of his daughters, and going out to dinner with his wife. He used his personal vehicle for all of these tasks.

At about 10:30 that night, he returned to his police SUV to get it ready for another extra-duty shift, smelled an unusual smell, and discovered Bandit dead in his kennel. Lovejoy was distraught. He soon called fellow Chandler Police Officer Ron Emary to help him report the incident, but he could barely do more than babble over the phone. Emary arrived on the scene soon after, as did Chandler Police Department Commander Joseph Gaylord, who photographed the scene, cleaned up Bandit’s kennel, and took Bandit’s body to an animal hospital for cremation.

As those who followed this story are aware, Officer Lovejoy was later charged by the County Attorney’s Office and found not guilty of animal cruelty.  If you or a loved one are charged with any criminal offense, you should immediately seek legal advice from a Phoenix Criminal Defense Attorney.

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The Arizona Defense Law Blog is published by Phoenix DUI and criminal defense attorney Joshua S. Davidson. Nothing on this website is intended to create an Attorney-Client relationship and the information provided herein is for general information purposes only.

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