By Marjorie Nesin
---- — John “Jack” Dugan, the 27-year-old Gloucester man accused of cutting open his pet pit bull after the dog ingested heroin and charged with animal cruelty, remains in Middleton Jail as he awaits a trial – one that may now be moved up to Salem Superior Court.
A switch to Superior Court, could mean a harsher sentence for Dugan. While any crime tried in district court can bring a sentence of up to 21/2 years in a county house of correction, a Superior Court judge has the flexibility to sentence a defendant to up to a life sentence in a state prison.
While cases like trespassing clearly fit into district court and murder cases must be judged in a higher court, some cases called “concurrent jurisdiction” cases, straddle the line and could be appropriately tried in either court, according to Spokeswoman for the District Attorney Carrie Kimball Monahan.
“I am able to confirm that the case is currently being reviewed for possible Superior Court action,” Monahan said. “It’s in a holding pattern in District Court until that decision is made.”
Dugan had been scheduled for a hearing about the case’s status in Gloucester District Court Friday, but that hearing was continued to May 14, with Dugan unlikely to appear again in Gloucester, according to the court clerk’s office.
Salem Superior Court had not indicted Dugan as of Friday, according to a clerk there. But Dugan has seen continuances on each of his court dates since his December arrest, including when Dugan returned to court just days after a hearing for a probation violation.
The 27-year-old, whose terms of probation included a provision against keeping animals and an order to remain sober of drugs and alcohol, was arrested in a motel room at Captain’s Motor Lodge Inn on a March afternoon. Dugan told police that he had consumed alcohol and used drugs, including smoking marijuana since leaving court Tuesday afternoon, according to police reports.
That arrest came just days before Dugan was scheduled to graduate from a drug rehabilitation program.
Animal rights activists who had protested at Dugan’s trial just before his arrest, waiving photos of the dog “Xena” and signs, waited to hear more from the district court Friday. And when no results came activists including Gloucester resident Kristen Lark vowed to continue following the case, wherever it might end up.
“Wherever this case ends up, we will be there, following very closely, making our presence known,” Lark vowed Friday. “We will continue to advocate for Xena and the other innocent victims of animal cruelty.
“People all over the country are following this case via social networking,” she said. “We will not let this go away.”
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.