By Marjorie Nesin
---- — A Superior Court judge has dismissed two of the four animal cruelty counts leveled against the Gloucester man accused of cutting open his pet pit bull to retrieve heroin that the dog had ingested last December.
John “Jack” Dugan’s defense attorney, John Morris, had moved for a judge to dismiss all of the four charges against Dugan, and Salem Superior Court Judge David Lowy — after hearing arguments from both sides — dismissed two of the cruelty counts, while keeping two other counts of animal cruelty and a charge of heroin possession in play.
The judge made the decision outside of the courtroom and is scheduled to review the status of the remaining charges in the case at a hearing Friday morning.
The Friday hearing was scheduled weeks ago.
“The judge can rule at any time,” District Attorney’s Office spokeswoman Carrie Kimball Monahan explained Wednesday. “He’s just got to rule before the next date because that determines what’s next.”
The two counts were both dismissed without prejudice, which means the prosecution could re-indict Dugan on those two counts, but Monahan said she does not know if that approach is planned.
The four animal cruelty counts leveled against Dugan pertained to separate acts allegedly committed against his pet pit bull Xena.
Dugan, 27, was first arrested on a single count of animal cruelty in December, after police found the remains of Xena, disemboweled and disposed of in the woods off Sadler Street.
Dugan admitted to police at the time that he had sliced the dog open after it had ingested heroin, according to police reports. He said he made the slice to relieve bloating, though police then said they believed he opened the dog to remove heroin.
Meanwhile, a woman identified in police reports as Dugan’s “ex-girlfriend” had told officers that Dugan would frequently hit both dogs for poor behavior and had watched Xena nearly choke to death on exercise equipment a week prior to the dog’s death.
Prosecutors added three counts of animal cruelty and the heroin charge when Dugan’s case moved from Gloucester’s District Court to the higher Superior Court level.
It was not immediately clear Wednesday which incidents the dismissed counts were tied to.
Excluding a period this winter when Dugan met bail terms, he has remained in Middleton Jail since his early December 2012 arrest.
If convicted on an animal cruelty charge, Dugan could face a state prison sentence of no more than five years, or a term in a house of correction for not more than 21/2 years. He could also face a fine of up to $2,500 on each count, or a combination of fine and jail time.
The charge of possession with intent to distribute carries a potential sentence of 10 years or fewer in jail or 21/2 years in a house of correction. That term can also be combined with a fine of anywhere between $1,000 and $10,000.
Marjorie Nesin can be reached at 978-283-7000, x3451, or at email@example.com.