(CN) – A federal judge tossed immunity claims lobbed by a deputy who arrested a woman he suspected of concealing the location a rabid dog.
In December 2012, Eileen McAfee visited a dog that her friend believed was in distress. The dog’s owner gave McAfee and her friend permission to examine the dog.
They determined the dog was healthy, but needed a new dog house, so McAfee bought a dog house and helped set it up. While doing so, she gave the dog a treat, and “in its exuberance to eat the treat, the dog accidentally bit McAfee,” the Eastern District of Virginia found.
When McAfee went to the hospital for a rabies shot, she told Deputy Sheriff Christine Boczar that she could probably find the address where the dog lived but did not remember exactly.
Based on this statement, Boczar determined that McAfee was withholding the dog’s location, and arrested her for illegally withholding information about a potentially rabid animal.
After McAfee was later acquitted, she sued Boczar for malicious prosecution. A jury sided with her in July 2012, leading Boczar to renew his motion for qualified immunity.
U.S. District Judge Robert Payne rejected that maneuver Wednesday, finding that “Boczar abused her authority and, in doing so, she violated McAfee’s well-established constitutional right. For that abuse, Boczar should now pay.”
“In a sworn criminal complaint, Boczar said: ‘When I contacted the victim (Ms. McAfee), she refuses to give information on the location of the dog,'” Payne wrote. “The record shows that simply was not true and that Boczar knew, but did not disclose in the criminal complaint or orally to the magistrate, that McAfee actually had volunteered to help lead Boczar to the location where the dog was tethered. That, of course, puts the lie to Boczar’s assertion.”
“In the only conversation between McAfee and Boczar, McAfee volunteered to help Boczar locate the dog, but McAfee also expressed her concern for the welfare of the dog,” he added. “That angered Boczar and caused her to confuse McAfee with an animal rights activist who previously had caused difficulty to Boczar. As Boczar told the police dispatcher … she would not tolerate any repetition of that behavior and that it was her purpose to run that person, the animal rights activist (whom Boczar erroneously believed to be McAfee) out of the county.” (Parentheses in original.)
“Qualified is not designed to protect a law enforcement officer from the consequences of such conduct,” Payne concluded.