By Marjorie Nesin
---- — John “Jack” Dugan, the pitbull heroin case defendant arrested again this week for violating the drug and alcohol terms of his probation, will now sit in Middleton Jail over the weekend at his attorney’s request, though the lawyer hopes the judge will free Dugan come Monday.
Dugan’s attorney, John Morris, asked at a Friday court hearing that the 27-year-old accused of gutting his pet pit bull, Xena, in what police call an attempt to remove packaged heroin, remain in jail until his probation officer returns to work Monday. Morris hopes the judge Monday will see the probation violation as a one-time slip-up and order Dugan’s release, Morris said.
“Other than this one little slip, he’s been fully compliant,” Morris said in an interview after court. “It’s a blip on the radar. I’m going to ask the judge to release him again so we can fight the fight while he’s on the street.”
Dugan had been rearrested on Wednesday, when police officers alerted that he missed a day of his court-mandated rehabilitation program found Dugan at a local hotel and Dugan confessed to “snorting” the opiate Percocet, drinking Jameson 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 Friday.
“Dugan stated he relapsed after his court proceeding Tuesday (on the pitbull cruelty charges),” Detective Steven Mizzoni wrote in the report.
Dugan had been released from jail in mid-January when he met the terms of a $20,000 bail, after his initial early December arrest on the case. His probation terms require that he stay sober of drugs and alcohol and not keep animals.
Animal rights activists who protested outside of Dugan’s Tuesday appearance, a status hearing that the judge decided to continue to May 3, were less than shocked to hear Dugan had been arrested again and hoped he might stay in jail a while longer this time.
“The defendant’s record and behavior speak for themselves,” activist Lisa Casavant said Friday. “Our focus continues to be on the promotion of public awareness of this case, as well as the pursuit of justice against Mr. Dugan for the brutal crimes he committed against his dog.
“Our numbers will continue to grow throughout this long process,” she added, “and we intend to be there throughout every new development. As previously stated, we will ensure that what Xena suffered will never be forgotten.”
Dugan’s attorney argues Dugan should be free anyway, as Morris said the elements of animal cruelty, the charge Dugan faces, are missing in the case. Animal cruelty, as defined in Massachusetts state law means to “overload, overwork, torment, deprive of necessary sustenance, cruelly beat, mutilate or kill an animal.”
Though Dugan told police, according to a police report, that Xena ingested heroin and he cut her open after she died, animal cruelty must include a direct act of cruelty toward a living animal under Massachusetts law, Morris said.
“Is it sad that the dog died? Absolutely. But what he’s being accused of, the elements aren’t there,” Morris said.
Still, Morris said he has yet to make any motions because he knows the case will move to Salem Superior Court, at which point anything that happened in Gloucester District Court gets swept from the picture.
A judge will determine the future jurisdiction of the case at a May 3 status and pre-trial hearing in Gloucester District Court.
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.