ELLSWORTH — Two men accused in the late August death of Franky, a Boston terrier-pug whose body washed up at the shorefront home of the district attorney, pleaded not guilty Monday in Hancock County Superior Court.
A grand jury last month indicted Nathan Burke, 38, of Hancock and Justin T. Chipman, 23, of Steuben on one count each of aggravated cruelty to animals, aggravated criminal mischief, burglary, theft by unauthorized taking or transfer and unauthorized use of property.
A handful of Franky supporters sat in the courtroom gallery Monday clad in yellow “Justice for Franky” T-shirts.
Franky belonged to Phil Torrey of Winter Harbor.
There is no date yet set for trial.
Burke and Chipman will be tried separately because of text messages exchanged between Burke and Torrey, Franky’s owner, according to Burke’s defense attorney, Jeffrey Toothaker of Ellsworth.
The messages are admissible as evidence in the case against Burke but not admissible for Chipman, the defense attorney said.
In arrest warrant affidavits for Burke and Chipman, Winter Harbor Police Officer Eli Brown said Burke and Chipman burglarized Torrey’s home on Aug. 24 and kidnapped his dog Franky, which was later found dead.
The dog’s body, which had been wrapped in plastic, floated to District Attorney Matt Foster’s shorefront property in Hancock on Aug. 30. Brown stated in the affidavit that Franky had been shot in the throat.
Officer Brown said Burke, who was Torrey’s former sternman, and Chipman entered Torrey’s home, kidnapped Franky and took Torrey’s Hummer for a ride to a gravel pit, according to the affidavit.
In a related development, a Saco legislator has sponsored a bill to help pursue justice for abused animals.
Rep. Donna Bailey (D-Saco) has sponsored a bill, LD 1442, “An Act To Provide for Court-appointed Advocates for Justice in Animal Cruelty Cases,” which is being called “Franky’s Law.”
An advocate could be a volunteer attorney or a law student, according to the draft legislation.
The court would appoint an advocate from a list of volunteers provided by the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, according to the bill text.
The bill was sent to the Judiciary Committee on April 2.
Approximately 40 animal rights supporters testified at the Statehouse May 1 in favor of the proposed legislation.
“Although animals are property in the eyes of the law, there is ample legal precedent to appoint special agents to represent animals’ interests,” testified Phil Arkow, coordinator of the National Link Coalition, which is working to stop violence against people and animals.
“LD 1442 is similar to the long-established procedures of Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) for children in child abuse cases, divorce proceedings and custody disputes.
“Children, like animals today, were once considered property and their interests for the first 90 years of the child protection movement were represented by humane societies,” Arkow said.