PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona jurors who will decide a malicious-prosecution trial against former Sheriff Joe Arpaio were told Tuesday that one of Sen. Jeff Flake's sons suffered from depression as a result of a now-dismissed animal cruelty case that the lawman brought against him.
The jury was told on the opening day of the civil trial that Austin Flake and his ex-wife Logan Brown still suffer emotional distress from the charges they faced when 21 dogs at a kennel operated by the younger Flake's in-laws died from heat exhaustion. The Flakes were watching the dogs while the in-laws were in Florida.
The lawsuit filed by the couple alleges Arpaio pursued charges against them to do political damage to the Republican senator from Arizona and gain publicity for himself. While jurors were told about Arpaio's efforts to publicize the case, the elder Flake was barely mentioned during opening Tuesday's opening statements.
Stephen Montoya, an attorney representing the younger Flake and his ex-wife, said there was no evidence showing his clients intended to hurt the dogs.
"It wasn't Austin's fault. It wasn't Logan's fault," Montoya said, adding the criminal case contributed to the demise of the couple's marriage.
Jeffrey Leonard, an attorney representing Maricopa County and the former sheriff, said the charges against the couple were the result of a competent investigation.
"There were no predetermined results," Leonard said. "Conclusions were drawn in good faith by the Maricopa County Sheriff's Office."
Leonard also told jurors the prosecutor who filed the charges was not pressured by Arpaio's office to prosecute the couple.
Arpaio, who lost his re-election bid last year after serving as sheriff of greater Phoenix for 24 years, is expected to testify Tuesday.
The case against the Flakes was dismissed at the request of prosecutors, and the owners of the kennel 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 federal judge presiding over the trial has determined previously that investigators didn't have probable cause to charge the couple.
The lawsuit alleges Arpaio tried to link the senator to the dog deaths by conducting surveillance on the senator's home and examining phone records to see if the younger Flake called his father when the younger Flake was watching the dogs.
Lawyers for Austin Flake and his then-wife have said previously that 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 was known for carrying out dozens of large-scale immigration crackdowns and conducting a five-year investigation of Obama's birth record.