Lawyers for officer accused of killing dog ask Bernstein to reconsider case

Lawyers for officer accused of killing dog ask Bernstein to reconsider case
Baltimore Police Agt. Jeffrey Bolger (right) leaves court with one of his attorneys after pleading not guilty to animal mutilation and animal cruelty charges in the death of shar-pei Napa in June. (Ian Duncan/Baltimore Sun)

Attorneys for a Baltimore police officer accused of slitting the throat of a shar-pei in June took the rare step Wednesday of writing an outside-the-court letter directly to Baltimore State's Attorney Gregg L. Bernstein, asking him to drop the case.

The attorneys for Officer Jeffrey Bolger argue the case was filed prematurely amid a storm of public criticism and a pre-investigatory rush to react by police and prosecutors, and that information uncovered since clears Bolger of wrongdoing.


"There has now been an investigation, and what the investigation has revealed is that the facts are vastly different than what the media portrayed, which was a bloodthirsty renegade cop who saw an opportunity to conduct a senseless killing," said attorney Chad Curlett of Levin & Curlett. "Now we're saying to the state's attorney, 'The original assumptions that were part of this case have been proven to be unfounded, and we think you should take another look at whether this case should be tried at all.' "

Short of dropping the case entirely, Curlett said, Bernstein should present it to a grand jury before proceeding.

The move follows a motion in court last week asking for the case against Bolger to be dismissed on legal grounds, which the judge did not address in court.

Tony Savage, a spokesman for Bernstein, said it would be "inappropriate" for the state's attorney to comment on a pending case.

The letter to Bernstein describes Bolger, 49, as a 22-year veteran of the city police force and a former member of the military with a previously "unblemished record of public service in both capacities."

It also reiterates claims made last week by Bolger's attorneys that Bolger was legally authorized to kill the dog, named Nala, under the city's health code, and did so in a surgical way because the dog had bitten a pregnant woman, could have had rabies and could not be allowed to escape.

The killing sparked outrage across the city, in part because of the allegation that Bolger had killed the animal after it had already been brought under control with a dog pole. Criticism was also directed at Bolger after it was reported he said he was going to "gut" the dog at the scene.

Bolger's attorneys have said he did not say that, but said he was going to "cut" the dog after a struggle with the animal at the end of the dog pole had lasted more than an hour and Bolger realized his options in the situation were limited.

Curlett said Bernstein's office inappropriately charged Bolger under a criminal information filing rather than conducting a hearing to establish probable cause or presenting the case to a grand jury — in part because of inappropriate pressure from the Police Department.

"The Police Department rushed to judgment in the immediate aftermath of the incident and began the drumbeat for an investigation" without all the facts, Curlett said.

Acting Maj. Eric Kowalczyk, a police spokesman, declined to comment on a "matter before the courts," directing all questions to Bernstein's office.