NEW ORLEANS -- A New Orleans police sergeant spent all day on trial Friday for malfeasance in the death of his police dog, but he will have to wait until next week for a verdict.
Criminal Court Judge Ben Willard, who is hearing the case without a jury, scheduled closing arguments for next Friday after a full day of testimony.
Prosecutors tried to prove that Sgt. Randy Lewis lied about a private detail at Charity Hospital in which his dog Phantom plunged 17 stories to his death at the bottom of an elevator shaft.
Phantom was taking part in the private security sweep of the shuttered hospital in May 2009 when he broke free from Lewis in the darkened high-rise and fell down the elevator shaft.
Assistant District Attorney Chris Bowman presented witnesses who said Lewis covered up the fact that canines would be used in the off-duty detail, concocting a story afterward that the dogs were taking part in a training exercise.
Deputy Chief Kirk Bouyelas testified that the department would never have given permission to use police dogs for that purpose.
“The use of a canine dog is extremely restricted,” said Bouyelas, who is now chief of detectives. “This whole thing stunk. None of it passed the smell test.”
Bouyelas went on to testify that he was “shocked” when he found out that the dog had been cremated afterward. He said the corpse should have been preserved for a necropsy as part of a full-blown investigation into the death.
Defense attorney Eric Hessler countered with witnesses who Lewis had permission from his superiors to use the canine.
Sgt. Walter Powers said he gave Lewis the green light to use the dogs in the abandoned building, suggesting it would be a “good training area.”
Powers testified that he was the person who initiated a paid detail authorization form on Lewis’ behalf.