DPS officer charged in K-9 death. Would you get same treatment?
Reporter: Craig Smith
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - A DPS officer leaves his dog in a hot car and the dog has to be euthanized.
Our 9 On Your Side viewers showed an unprecedented emotional response.
Now Officer Korey Lankow faces one count of criminal animal neglect---a misdemeanor.
Many of you want to know will he get special treatment?
A veteran attorney tells KGUN9 news the system does treat officers differently, but not in the way you might think.
Police reports indicate the dog, Jeg, was left in a hot car, in more than 90 degree weather for at least an hour and a half.
Officer Korey Lankow said he simply forgot the dog while changing vehicles. The County Attorney's office concluded Lankow didn't mean to hurt the dog and decided not to file a felony abuse charge.
The Tucson City Attorney's office decided there's still a case for neglect so the city is charging Lankow with the most serious type of misdemeanor. Six months in jail is one possible punishment. Though City Attorney Mike Rankin says jail time is unlikely for Lankow.
In fifty years as a lawyer, Brick Storts has defended other officers in trouble. He says prosecutors don't give police special breaks. He says they may come down harder to prove there's no favoritism.
KGUN9 reporter Craig Smith asked Storts: "Why do you think it tends to be more harsh because a lot of people assume an officer will get a more lenient treatment?"
Storts: "I think for no other reason than the public perception that the County Attorney's Office wants to be very clear that they're going to be treating everybody fairly which means they may have a tendency to lean over a little bit farther to exercise that fairness when an officer is involved rather than a regular citizen."
A felony conviction will cost an officer his job, but Storts says an officer with a misdemeanor will usually keep his job but may face department penalties.
Storts says if he were defending Officer Lankow he'd probably try to avoid a jury trial so a judge could decide based on law, not emotions.
"Here I think you would be making a legal argument that he was negligent but his negligence didn't rise to the level of some type of crime."
Craig Smith asked: "But because people are so emotional when it comes to animals that that would be very tricky to try to a jury? Storts: I think it would be and I think realistically, to try that kind of a case to a jury could be a bigger problem."
KGUN9 News has the TPD report that's part of the decision to charge Lankow, even though his name's blotted out, the report makes it clear the officer was broken up about what happened. There are accounts of him in tears, and frantically icing down the dog to try to force his temperature down.