GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

March 4, 2013

Hearing set Tuesday in grisly pitbull case

By Marjorie Nesin
Staff Writer

---- — The 27-year-old Prospect Street man accused of gutting his pet pitbull, Xena, in what police believe was an attempt to remove heroin from the dog’s innards, will return to court Tuesday, when a judge will review the status of his case.

John “Jack” Dugan of Gloucester was arrested in December, two days after police first received a report of a dog carcass thrown against a fence that separates Sadler Street from the woods above the Route 128 extension.

His lawyer John Morris, has said it is likely that Dugan’s case will be shifted to the Superior Court’s jurisdiction after tomorrow’s hearing.

Dugan is expected to walk into court free of handcuffs Tuesday, since he was released from Middleton Jail upon meeting the terms of his cash bail in mid-January. Eugene C. Tessicini, also of Gloucester, laid down $20,000 in bail to gain the release of Dugan on Jan. 13, and Dugan registered Tessicini’s residence as the place he would be staying for the remainder of his trial, according to court documents.

Since this could be Dugan’s final appearance in Gloucester District Court, animal rights activists and Gloucester residents who have followed the case since it first made headlines in December may show up at the court hearing in protest of Dugan’s alleged actions, with murmurings of an organized protest having arisen through out the case.

As of Friday afternoon, more than 93,000 people had signed an Internet petition urging Judge Joseph Jennings to peg Dugan with the maximum sentence. That petition is set to expire Tuesday, the day of the status hearing.

Still, Dugan’s former court appointed attorney Thomas O’Shea had filed a motion to dismiss the case on grounds, he said at the time, that the case lacked an element of “cruelty,” since the Massachusetts law’s definition of cruelty does not include harm inflicted on a deceased animal. O’Shea had argued that Massachusetts law defines animal cruelty as to “overload, overwork, torment, deprive of necessary sustenance, cruelly beat, mutilate or kill an animal.” O’Shea had written that his client, Dugan, performed none of those acts in the Dec. 3 incident, saying the dog’s ingestion of heroin — not Dugan’s cutting open of Xena — killed the dog.

Dugan’s current lawyer, Morris, plans to file for dismissal on the same grounds as O’Shea’s filing, he said in a telephone interview. Morris said his client would have committed no animal cruelty if the dog were already dead when he allegedly cut her open.

“Do I believe that there’s insufficient evidence of animal cruelty? Yes,” Morris said in a January interview with the Times. “I’d be filing a motion to dismiss because the Commonwealth can’t meet the burden at the probable cause level from the plain language contained within the statute.”

Records obtained by the Gloucester Daily Times in January showed that Dugan had also served nearly two years in jail on a vehicular homicide charge in 2003, when the then-17-year-old was driving in a residential neighborhood at 60 or 70 miles per hour while drunk and crashed into a concrete retaining wall, killing a 17-year-old Canton girl, according to reports in the Patriot Ledger of Quincy.

If found guilty of the animal cruelty charge leveled against him, Dugan would face up to five years in a state prison, up to 2 1/2 years in a house of correction, a fine no higher than $2,500, or any combination of a fine and jail time. He would also be barred from any further pet ownership.

Dugan, however, faces no drug charges because, while he told police the dog died after ingesting heroin in Dugan’s home, police recovered no drugs at Dugan’s residence during their search, several sources close to the case told the Times.

Beyond the vehicular homicide conviction, a 2007 Gloucester police report notes that Dugan was also arrested on an animal cruelty charge in 2007 after breaking the legs of a past girlfriend’s dog “in a fit of rage,” according to reports at the time.

Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at mnesin@gloucestertimes.com.