By MARK REMILLARD
A federal judge in Arizona has denied a request for a new trial against former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, which was brought on by the son of Arizona Sen. Jeff Flake.
U.S. District Judge Neil Wake ruled that despite claims by Austin Flake’s attorney, Stephen Montoya, that newly uncovered evidence warranted a new trial, Wake ruled that the evidence was “irrelevant as to Arpaio.”
Montoya told ABC News he was “disappointed” with the decision.
The lawsuit stemmed from the deaths of 21 dogs at a Phoenix-area kennel owned by the parents of Austin Flake’s now ex-wife, Logan Brown. Austin Flake and Brown were temporarily watching the property in June 2014 when the dogs died in the sweltering Arizona heat.
The couple maintained that an air conditioner on the property failed overnight and the dogs died accidentally. But the Maricopa County Sheriff’s Office would subsequently investigate and recommend felony charges of animal cruelty against Austin Flake and Brown in September 2014.
The two were indicted in October, but the charges were dropped just two months later when the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office said the case presented to the grand jury did not take into account the possibility that the air conditioner had failed. The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office told ABC News they have no comment on the case.
That lead to Austin Flake and Brown suing Arpaio, Maricopa County, and a sheriff’s detective, claiming that Arpaio and his office maliciously and selectively prosecuted the couple because of his relationship to Austin Flake’s father, Jeff Flake — who has been publicly critical of Arpaio.
Arpaio is now running to replace Jeff Flake in the U.S. Senate as Jeff Flake has decided not to seek reelection.
The couple also claimed a sheriff’s detective, Marie Trombi, lied or recklessly disregarded the truth when presenting facts to the grand jury in order to get an indictment.
That lawsuit went to trial in December with a jury ruling in favor of Arpaio and Maricopa County on Dec. 15, 2017.
But Montoya said testimony during the trial revealed the existence of previously undisclosed electricity graphs that he said help corroborate Austin Flake’s account that an air conditioner had failed, and, furthermore, Montoya argued that Trombi knew about these graphs and failed to disclose them to the grand jury.
Those graphs became the basis for Montoya’s request for a new trial filed in federal court last month.
On Thursday, however, Wake ruled against Montoya’s motion, writing that the request did not do enough to link the graphs to Arpaio.
“The new evidence does not suggest that Arpaio knew of or participated in Trombi’s alleged misconduct or that he was recklessly indifferent to Trombi’s alleged misconduct,” Wake wrote in his order.
Because the new evidence is not linked directly to Arpaio, the existence of the charts would have no bearing on the jury’s decision in December to rule in Arpaio’s favor, he added.
“A reasonable juror could conclude Arpaio brought the case for an improper purpose. The Flakes made that case at the first trial,” Wake wrote in his order. “Evidence of Trombi’s potential wrongdoing, unmoored from further connection to Arpaio, is not sufficient for a new trial against Arpaio.”
But while Austin Flake and Brown will not get a new trial against Arpaio, the case is not over yet, according to Montoya.
There’s still a separate, forthcoming trial against Trombi for her role in getting charges filed against Austin Flake and Brown.
Trombi testified at the grand jury hearing in 2014 and, according to transcripts, had told jurors that the air conditioner was on and working all night.
“There’s no way that a reasonable law enforcement officer could believe that the [electricity] records show the A/C was on and working all night, after having looked at these graphs that they created,” Montoya told ABC News in May.
The suit against Trombi has similar allegations to those originally brought against Arpaio and the county. The attorney representing Trombi had previously declined to comment since the case was ongoing.
“We’re alleging malicious prosecution, failure to disclose exculpatory evidence, and misrepresenting a criminal investigation to a prosecutor in order to obtain an indictment,” Montoya said.
That trial is set to begin on July 5.
“That’s the main thing that we are focused on now,” Montoya said. “July 5 is going to be upon us in just a few days.”
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