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Judge denies immunity for animal control officer

Wednesday - 8/15/2012, 10:36pm  ET

RICHMOND, Va. (AP) - A federal judge refused Wednesday to toss out a malicious prosecution verdict against a Powhatan County deputy sheriff and animal control officer who arrested a woman for allegedly refusing to disclose the location of a dog that had bitten her.

U.S. District Judge Robert Payne denied Christine Boczar's motion for qualified immunity. Boczar had renewed the motion after a jury last month found in Eileen McAfee's favor on one of two malicious prosecution counts and awarded her damages of $2,943.

The judge noted that in her only conversation with Boczar, McAfee said she did not know the dog owner's address but that she could probably find the house. That hardly amounted to refusing to tell the location, which is what Boczar alleged in asking a magistrate to issue a warrant for McAfee's arrest, the judge said.

"Boczar exercised her power irresponsibly," Payne wrote. "Her conduct is not the type of conduct sanctioned or protected by the doctrine of qualified immunity."

McAfee's attorney, William Hurd, said he was pleased with the ruling.

"Our client has now been vindicated both by the jury and by the judge," he said.

Boczar's attorney, Henry Smith Keuling-Stout, said he had not yet seen the opinion but added: "We feel very strongly on the motion we made, and that the motion was correct."

McAfee filed the lawsuit after she was acquitted last year on a charge of withholding information about the location of a possibly rabid animal.

According to court papers, in December 2010 McAfee was bitten while delivering a doghouse in Powhatan County. Hospital personnel reported the bite to Powhatan animal control, prompting the contact between McAfee and Boczar and the Henrico County woman's arrest three days later.


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