In a controversial ruling this morning, Judge Melissa Phinn rendered a not guilty verdict to a Baltimore police officer accused of killing a dog by slitting its throat last year.
Jeffrey Bolger, who has since retired from the department, was found not guilty on all charges, including animal cruelty, mutilating an animal and misconduct in office in connection with the June 2014 killing of a Shar-Pei dog named Nala.
In rendering her verdict, Judge Phinn said she believed the dog was dead before Bolger cut its throat. And that the dog was a safety hazard because of it biting a woman earlier, according to the Baltimore Sun.
The judge also believed there was a lack of evidence, and the state’s testimony and witnesses were biased.
Kathryn Nepote, the veterinarian that conducted the dog’s necropsy, came to the determination that the dog’s death was due to a loss of blood.
However, the defense brought their own veterinarian to the stand that testified that the cause of death could not be determined because certain body parts could not be inspected properly.
Bolger, who spent more than 20 years with the department, opted for a bench trial instead of a jury trial, which is why the verdict came down to Judge Phinn.
Bolger’s defense attorney, Steven Levin, argued that Bolger slit the dog’s throat to take it out of its misery after being inadvertently strangled by a dog control pole held by another cop.
They say he opted not to shoot it because he was worried about ricocheting bullets putting others at risk.
In December, the defense submitted a motion to dismiss the case, citing the dog was dead before the officer cut its throat, which was denied.
However, the officer holding the dog control pole, Thomas Schmidt, was also charged initially, but charges against him were dismissed in January to allow prosecutors to focus on Bolger.
“It did not pose a threat to anyone at that point,” Paul O’Connor, the prosecutor in the case, said. “There was absolutely no reason to cut this dog’s throat.”
Nala, the 7-year-old Shar-Pei, had escaped from its owner in June 2014 and made its way in the middle of the street where a pregnant woman was trying to help it.
But Nala bit the woman and police were called as a result.
The officers on scene attempted to subdue the dog with a control pole, but the dog ended up strangling itself in an attempt to avoid the control pole.
Even a Baltimore police spokesman criticized Bolger for the incident after it first made the news.
According to a June 19, 2014 CNN article:
Nala, a 7-year-old Chinese shar-pei breed, went missing Saturday from her home in Baltimore.
The same day, officers responded to a call that a dog had bitten a woman. The dog was Nala, whom police restrained using a pole around her neck, authorities said.
Shortly afterward, Officer Jeffrey Bolger cut Nala’s throat with a knife, even though she was contained, according to police spokesman Eric Kowalczy.
She later died.
“It was a complete violation of protocol,” Kowalczy said. “It’s not often police speak out against one of their own, but we are all truly appalled.”
Just before they got to the scene, Bolger was overheard saying, “I’m going to gut this (expletive) thing,” according to charging documents.
This case has also prompted the attention of the Anti-Animal Abuse Advisory Commission.
“This is a case where justice needs to come about for Nala. We feel that Officer Bolger did kill Nala without any regard,”said Katie Flory, chair of mayor’s Anti-Animal Abuse Advisory Commission.
There is also a Facebook page called Justice for Nala with more than 20,000 followers that are disappointed in the verdict.