Federal Court Denies Motion to Dismiss Cruelty Charges against Former Wildlife Services Employee

Submitted by ADLA on 08/06/2014 - 2:38pm

A Federal Court judge has denied former Wildlife Services employee Russell Zoey after recovery (photo: Britan Hartt)Files’ motion to dismiss felony animal cruelty charges.   The motion was based on what the Court described as a “seldom-litigated principle of federal constitutional law- federal Supremacy Clause immunity- to bar the State of Arizona from prosecuting him for animal cruelty.” 

This is the latest development in a case that has factually and legally been full of firsts, accroding to ADLA president and attorney Stephanie Nichols-Young. 

Files was arrested on December 18th, 2012 and later charged in Maricopa County Superior Court with one count of felony animal cruelty after he used a leghold trap to trap a neighbor’s dog, Zoey, who was severely injured in the incident. Files placed the trap in his unfenced front yard. Police report is posted here (warning - graphic images) 

Wildlife Services - a division of the USDA, is often criticized for its practices in killing large numbers of wildlife and unintentionally targeted pets. However, it is unusual for the agency to go after an individual pet in this manner.

  • The case was designated a violent crime by Maricopa County Superior Court Judge Margaret Mahoney - an unusual designation in animal cruelty cases.
  • The defense successfully had the case removed to federal court - also unusual in a criminal case.
  • In denying the request to dismiss charges, Judge Jack Zouhary noted that “The [Supremacy Clause] defense does not protect a federal officer who misuses his or her position to further wholly personal interests.” 

Judge Zouhary presided over a two- day evidentiary hearing to hear evidence relevant to the motion.  In his 17 page Opinion and Order he noted that:

Files violated generally applicable agency policies in the course of setting the traps;

Files did not complete necessary paperwork before setting the traps;

Files did not disclose key facts to his supervisors, and his approach to them was not made in good faith;

Files had an actual conflict of interest;

Files defied his supervisor’s instructions.

The entire Opinion is posted here

The next hearing in this matter is scheduled for August 19th at 4:00 PM at in Courtroom 603, 401 West Washington Street in Phoenix before Judge David G Campbell.

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