- Associated Press - Monday, June 22, 2015

PHOENIX (AP) - The son of U.S. Sen. Jeff Flake alleges in a lawsuit that Sheriff Joe Arpaio pursued animal cruelty charges against him to do political damage to the senator and gain publicity for the lawman.

The lawsuit filed late Friday by Austin Flake and his wife Logan stems from Arpaio’s investigation a year ago into the heat-exhaustion deaths of 21 dogs at a kennel operated by the younger Flake’s in-laws.

The young couple was in charge of the dogs while the kennel operators were out of town.

The in-laws initially said the animals died after one of the dogs chewed through a wire connected to an air conditioner. But an expert later determined the unit failed because it wasn’t properly maintained.

The case against the young couple and the in-laws was dropped, but the in-laws were later indicted again and pleaded not guilty to animal cruelty counts.

The lawsuit said Arpaio’s office conducted surveillance at the senator’s home on June 27, even though the younger Flake and his wife were in Utah at the time.

Jack Wilenchik, an attorney for the Flakes, said the senator disagreed with Arpaio on immigration and was critical of the movement that questions the authenticity of President Barack Obama’s birth certificate.

Arpaio is known for his immigration crackdowns, and his volunteer posse conducted an investigation into the president’s birth record.

“It’s part of a longstanding pattern and practice by the sheriff where he relishes attacking other politicians - anything that will somehow advance him in his political career,” Wilenchick said.

Arpaio said in a statement that his office stands by its investigation.

“The allegation being made by Flake’s attorney that this investigation was in any way politically motivated is completely false,” Arpaio said.

The lawsuit alleges malicious prosecution and abuse of process against the sheriff’s office and seeks unspecified damages. Austin and Logan Flake had previously sought $4 million each in a notice of claim - a precursor to filing a lawsuit.

Before the indictment was filed, the sheriff believed county prosecutors would reject the case and tried to pressure them into pursuing charges by holding a news conference at which he said he was recommending charges.

“Arpaio knew that prosecutors would be accused of dropping the case because of the Flake name, rather than the complete lack of probable cause and criminal intent,” the lawsuit said.

Austin and Logan Flake said in the lawsuit that their reputations have been harmed by Arpaio’s investigation. They say investigators lied to grand jurors and concealed evidence that would exonerate them.

The indictment caused the younger Flake, who was 21 at the time of the dog deaths, to be suspended from Brigham Young University, the lawsuit said.

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