Jury rules for Arpaio in lawsuit by senator’s son, ex-wife

PHOENIX (AP) — An Arizona jury has refused to award damages against former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio at a civil trial for bringing a since-dismissed criminal case against one of Sen. Jeff Flake’s sons in the heat-exhaustion deaths of 21 dogs.

Jurors late Thursday ruled against Austin Flake and his then-wife Logan Brown in their malicious-prosecution lawsuit stemming from Arpaio’s investigation into the heat-exhaustion deaths of 21 dogs at a kennel operated by Flake’s in-laws.

Flake and Brown, who were in college at the time, were caring for the dogs while the in-laws were out of town.

Stephen Montoya, the couple’s attorney, said his clients disagree with the verdict said that they were grateful for “the opportunity to force former Sheriff Arpaio and his subordinates at Maricopa County to account for their indisputably reckless conduct.”

“The struggle to hold government officials accountable has always required a steep, perilous climb,” Montoya said in a statement.

Montoya said the federal judge in the case said during the trial he wouldn’t enter a final judgment until lawyers for Arpaio and the county explain a failure to turn over documents in the case. “We will access our future options in this fight when the county complies with the court’s order,” Montoya said.

Jeffrey Leonard, an attorney representing Arpaio and the county, didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The criminal case against the Flakes was dismissed at the request of prosecutors — and the kennel owners later pleaded guilty to animal cruelty charges — after an expert determined the facility’s air conditioner failed because the operators didn’t properly maintain it. The judge presiding over the civil trial had told jurors that authorities didn’t have probable cause to charge the Flakes.

The couple alleged in their lawsuit that Arpaio brought the case against them to garner publicity for himself and to do political damage to Flake’s father.

Their lawyers said the senator drew Arpaio’s ire by disagreeing with the sheriff over immigration and criticizing the movement that questioned the authenticity of then-President Barack Obama’s birth certificate.

Arpaio, also a Republican, was known for carrying out dozens of large-scale immigration crackdowns and conducting a five-year investigation of Obama’s birth record.