An animal cruelty investigator with the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office has said some of his fellow deputies should have been investigated, possibly criminally, after police dogs died in their care.
In February, sheriff's Detective Rob Simonson examined the cases of three dogs that died on deputies' watches since 2001 and determined all deserved a closer look than they got at the time, according to court documents filed Thursday.
The three dogs have been central to the defense of a Chandler police sergeant who was arrested by the sheriff's office last year after he left his own police dog in the back of a hot vehicle and it died.
"I can't say at this point whether it would be criminal or not," Simonson said of one of the cases, according to the court documents. He added: "It should have been looked into further."
Simonson also made similar comments about the cases of the two other dogs.
Chandler Sgt. Tom Lovejoy has argued he was unfairly targeted for arrest, even though other officers in similar circumstances weren't investigated.
On Thursday, his defense team used the sheriff's investigator's comments to buttress his cause. He asked the judge overseeing the misdemeanor animal cruelty case to throw it out before his trial starts on June 27.
Lovejoy's lawyer filed the motion asking for the dismissal because the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution guarantees all citizens be treated equally.
There was "no legitimate reason" for MCSO to arrest Lovejoy for the death and not arrest its own deputies, the motion stated.
"The more likely reason for the unequal treatment is the sheriff's political gain," it stated.
A Republican now running for re-election, Sheriff Joe Arpaio made national headlines last year when his agency arrested Lovejoy.
A spokesman for the sheriff dismissed the allegations as "legal maneuvering."
"This is not a concern to us," said spokesman Capt. Paul Chagolla. "It is expected of a criminal defense attorney."
In an interview with Lovejoy's lawyer, Robert Kavanagh, the sheriff denied knowing any of the details of the deaths of his agency's dogs. [CORRECTION: Due to an editing error, in the previous version Lovejoy's lawyer last name was misspelled as Kavanaugh.]
Arpaio told Kavanagh he did not ask for an investigation intothe deaths of Dax, Brando and Ranger, and "does not plan to in the future."
Once the head of the Chandler Police Department's K-9 unit, Lovejoy came under widespread scrutiny in August when he left his policedog, Bandit, in the back of a police vehicle for about 13 hours, killing him.
He and his family called it a tragic mistake and his departmentdeclined to criminally investigateit.
Because Lovejoy lived on county land, however, the sheriff's office decided it had jurisdiction and went forward with a case.
Thursday's filing is the second time Lovejoy asked for the case to be dismissed.
The same judge declined to dismiss it last month, saying there were legitimate reasons to hold a trial.