By Marjorie Nesin
---- — John “Jack” Dugan, the 27-year-old Gloucester man charged with gutting his pet pit bull last December in a case that outraged animal rights activists, appeared in court briefly Friday before Judge Joseph Jennings simply pushed the case back to May 3.
Dugan entered the courtroom’s glass box in handcuffs, wearing a light blue button-up shirt and left hours later still in handcuffs, with attorneys and a judge just mentioning his name.
Because Dugan was originally arrested on charges of animal cruelty for allegedly cutting open his pet pit bull Xena after the dog ingested heroin, his probation had included an order to remain drug and alcohol free. Dugan was arrested March 6, allegedly having broken those conditions of his probation after a March 5 court date.
Jennings had ordered Dugan held without bail until Friday, when he returned to court in custody, for a hearing on that pretrial probation violation. Dugan’s attorney did not return calls for comment on the case Friday.
The rescheduling of the probation violation charge puts it on the docket for a status review on the same day that the animal cruelty charge is up for status review, as well.
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.
Dugan’s current lawyer, John Morris, has said he plans to file for dismissal on the same grounds as O’Shea’s filing, possibly waiting to take filing action until the case’s status is decided.
“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.”
Those close to the case, including spokeswoman for the district attorney Carrie Kimball Monahan, have expected that the case might be moved to the higher Salem Superior Court at the status review on May 3.
“I am able to confirm that the case is currently being reviewed for possible Superior Court action,” Monahan has said. “Once it gets to Superior Court, you’re just dismissing the district court case. So, if you’re anticipating it, you don’t want to spend so much time in district because it’s just going to get kicked.”
Dugan had been freed from Middleton Jail, his $20,000 bail paid by a third party, when he was rearrested in March following a court hearing. After his arrest, the man who had paid his bail reclaimed the $20,000 from court, and Jennings held him without bail until his probation violation hearing regardless of that.
Police officers, alerted that Dugan missed a day of his court-mandated rehabilitation program, had found Dugan at a local hotel where Dugan confessed to “snorting” the opiate Percocet, drinking Jameson’s whiskey and smoking marijuana in a relapse that began right after a Tuesday court appearance, according to a police report. Dugan had been expected to graduate from the rehabilitation program days later.
“Dugan stated he relapsed after his court proceeding Tuesday (on the pit bull cruelty charges),” Detective Steven Mizzoni wrote in the report.
Dugan’s criminal history includes a motor vehicular homicide conviction. He was charged in the June 18, 2003, crash with causing the death of a 17-year-old girl when he was allegedly driving a vehicle at 60 to 70 mph in a 20 mph residential neighborhood, and lost control of the vehicle, striking a concrete retaining wall, then a parked vehicle.
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.
He was also charged with marijuana possession in 2009 after police serving him with a restraining order found more than an ounce of pot and $1,900 in cash in his apartment.
Also in 2009, Dugan faced a charge of vandalizing property when, according to police reports, a domestic dispute ended with Dugan slashing a Mt. Pleasant Street resident’s tires. Those charges do not appear on Dugan’s criminal record.
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.