NewburyportNews.com, Newburyport, MA

Local News

October 12, 2013

Judge eyes bail review in pit bull heroin case

The man accused of slaying and gutting his pet pit bull after the dog ingested heroin no longer faces charges tied to those allegations, but remains in Middleton Jail on additional animal abuse and heroin possession charges that arose during the case.

John “Jack” Dugan has been held in Middleton Jail on $20,000 cash bail since a June plea hearing in Salem Superior Court. But, with two animal cruelty charges dropped in the case against him, the court on Friday tentatively schedule a judge to review his bail Tuesday afternoon.

The parties involved also set a Jan. 22 trial date for the remaining charges, with a final pretrial conference to fall on Dec. 5, exactly one year after Dugan’s initial arrest. Police had found the dog’s body, gutted and discarded against a fence on the Sadler Street Extension, and traced the crime back to her owner.

Salem Superior Court Judge Timothy Q. Feeley, after hearing arguments from the prosecution and defense, had dismissed two counts of animal cruelty — one related to Dugan allegedly having gutted his pit bull, Xena; the other related to an incident prior to Xena’s alleged killing when Dugan allegedly allowed the dog to choke after becoming entangled in exercise equipment.

Feeley had determined the prosecution could not prove the two counts, though he dismissed them without prejudice, after a key witness recanted her statements to police.

Feeley also determined that no law requires humans to alleviate an animal’s suffering or self-inflicted harm. And he discovered that the prosecution provided no evidence that heroin had absolutely caused the dog, Xena’s, death.

Dugan’s defense attorney John Morris had filed a motion asking the judge to dismiss all charges against Dugan.

“They still can’t prove this case,” Morris said Friday of the prosecution led by Assistant District Attorney Karen Hopwood.

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