By James Niedzinski
---- — Five months have passed since a 27-year-old Gloucester man was first charged with animal cruelty for cutting open and then discarding his pet pit bull Xena, reportedly in an effort to retrieve a package of heroin the dog had ingested.
Yet, John “Jack” Dugan is still awaiting a formal status hearing that was postponed a third time Friday and has now been pushed back to June 14, court officials said yesterday. Dugan, who has been held in Middleton jail since his initial bail was withdrawn after a probation arrest in March, did not appear in Gloucester District Court Friday.
Carrie Kimball Monahan, a spokesman for the Essex County District Attorney’s office, said little has changed in the case since his last scheduled court appearance was pushed back earlier this month.
But John Morris, Dugan’s attorney, said Friday he believes the case was continued for another month to give prosecutors time to pursue an indictment of Dugan in Salem Superior Court. While any crime tried in District Court, where Dugan’s case still stands, can bring a sentence of up to 21/2 years in a county house of correction like Middleton, a Superior Court judge has the flexibility to sentence a defendant to up to a life sentence in a state prison.
Some cases, such as an animal abuse or even a charge of operating a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol can be tried in either district or superior courts.
As of Friday, Dugan has yet to be indicted in Salem Superior Court, according to Monahan and a Salem Superior Court clerk. In order to be moved to Salem Superior Court, Dugan would need to be indicted by a grand jury. The indictment process would need to begin before the case from Gloucester District Court can be dismissed.
The 27-year-old Dugan, whose terms of probation from the initial charge included a provision against keeping animals and an order to remain sober of drugs and alcohol, was arrested a second time in a motel room with drug and alcohol at Captain’s Motor Lodge Inn in March, a day after his last substantive court appearance.
In that case, Dugan told police that he had consumed alcohol and used drugs, including smoking marijuana since he had left the court the previous afternoon, according to police reports. That arrest came just days before Dugan was scheduled to graduate from a drug rehabilitation program.
The case began in December, when police filed animal cruelty charges after saying they believe Dugan removed Xena’s entrails to retrieve heroin the dog had swallowed in a bag. Dugan told Gloucester police that he had cut open Xena to relieve bloating after the dog died from ingesting heroin that had been left on a counter in his Prospect Street apartment.
James Niedzinski can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3455, or at firstname.lastname@example.org.