POTOSI — A Washington County jury found former jail employee, Lance Mason not guilty of misdemeanor animal abuse in connection with the alleged neglect of the sheriff’s department’s bloodhound.
The jury deliberated three hours Wednesday before reaching their verdict at the end of a two-day trial in Potosi.
During his closing arguments, the former Washington County jailer’s public defender, Josh Hedgecorth, said Charles LaLumondiere is “who this case is about,” not his client. He pointed out LaLumondiere was the one who adopted the dog and signed the adoption contract with Midwest Bloodhound Rescue.
He said the animal abuse case is about the county needing a “fall guy” and a “scapegoat.
However, Special Prosecutor Wendy Wexler Horn said even if the jurors think it’s unfair for Mason to be the one on trial, or that LaLumondiere or Sheriff Kevin Schroeder did something wrong, “two wrongs, or in this case, three wrongs, do not make a right.”
She said the case is not about LaLumondiere or any other member of the sheriff’s department.
She said the law says a person who has custody of a dog is responsible for providing adequate care. She said then-Lt. LaLumondiere’s legal responsibility to the animal ended when Mason took the dog home.
She showed the jury a picture of what the dog looked like while in LaLumondiere’s care and what he looked like after a few months of being in Mason’s care.
She spoke about the health problems the dog had when it was retrieved by the Midwest Bloodhound group in February of 2008.
She pointed out the dog dropped from 93 pounds to 61 pounds in less than four months. She said the emergency vet reported the dog was 6 percent dehydrated. She said the dog accepted food and water, and ate and drank like he was starved. She said his living conditions had been filthy and the dog had infections, worms, and other problems.
She said Mason didn’t take it upon himself to get the puppy food, the medicine or the cedar bedding the vet recommended when Mason took the dog there in January.
Horn said Mason should have asked the Sheriff for food and medicine if LaLumondiere refused to get it.
Missouri Humane Society Investigator Kyle Held said Mason told him he was not going to feed Mosley his own dogs’ food because it was not his dog.
On the stand, Mason said Held was “a liar.” Mason said he said he wasn’t going to get the medicine because it was not his dog. He said it was the sheriff’s department’s dog and he tried to get LaLumondiere to take the dog.
He said he did provide adequate care and tried to get the dog medical care.
He said it was LaLumondiere’s fault the dog deteriorated the way he did. Mason said he is not saying he didn’t do anything wrong. He said he should have taken the dog back to LaLumondiere.
He testified LaLumondiere refused to authorize him to take the dog to the vet. He said after the Sheriff let him take the dog to the vet, they both refused to authorize the purchase of medicine as well as the bedding and food recommended by the vet. He said they said they weren’t going to spend any more money on the dog and they wanted their money back from the rescue group. He said they both wouldn’t even look at the dog.
He said he didn’t have the money to get the medicine and the sheriff’s department had a special account to pay for the care of the dog. He said he didn’t get any extra pay for training the department’s dogs.
Mason said he repeatedly asked LaLumondiere over the next few weeks for medicine. Another witness said she heard LaLumondiere say he was not going to spend that kind of money on the dog. He said LaLumondiere kept telling him the rescue group was going to take the dog back.
He said every day he saw the dog getting worse and suffering. He said he knew the dog was sick to the point he couldn’t properly care for the dog. He felt the dog was dying or needed to be euthanized if the sheriff’s department wasn’t going to get the dog medicine. He thought that would have been the humane thing to do.
He said he did feed and give water to the dog every day. He said he gave the dog water twice that February day, but it is possible it was frozen solid when the lady picked him up. He said he didn’t feed the dog that day because he knew the dog would be going on a long car ride.
In her closing argument, Horn argued that Mason could have done many things like replace the bedding, put a cover over the dog house, or make the pen less filthy.
She said Mason knew the dog needed medical care. “If he went to Charlie (LaLumondiere) that’s all he did,” Horn said.
She said fear of losing a job is not a defense for committing a crime.
After the trial, Horn, who was assigned to the case after Washington County Prosecutor John Rupp recused himself, said she was terribly disappointed with the verdict. She said she was disappointed that they could not bring justice for Mosley and what happened to him. She felt what happened to him was neglect.
However, Horn said she respects the judicial system and knows the jury paid attention to the case during the trial.
Teresa Ressel is a reporter for the Daily Journal and can be reached at 573-431-2010, ext. 179 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.