No charges in monkey’s death at Everett lab

EVERETT – A Snohomish County judge won’t allow a Monroe animal rights activist to file criminal animal cruelty charges against three men in the scalding death of a monkey at an Everett animal testing lab.

Everett District Court Judge Roger Fisher ruled today there isn’t enough evidence to support allegations that lab workers committed a crime when they failed to remove a cynomolgus monkey from her cage before the cage went through a cleaning.

Prosecutors at the city of Everett and Snohomish County also opted not to file charges.

“I believe the facts as presented do not rise to the level of a citizen’s complaint,” Fisher said.

Susan Michaels, co-founder of Pasado’s Safe Haven, asked Fisher’s permission to bring a private criminal prosecution against three former workers at SNBL USA. She was concerned the case would slip through the cracks if she didn’t pursue criminal charges herself, her attorney, Adam Karp, said.

The Bellingham attorney, who specializes in animal law, petitioned to file misdemeanor animal cruelty charges. He alleged that the men were criminally reckless when they caused the monkey’s death.

Michaels was concerned that the one-year statute of limitations to file a misdemeanor charge would run out before prosecutors made a decision, Karp said. The monkey died in November 2007.

Fisher initially delayed making a decision after learning that Everett police were still investigating. Police had received the complaint in February. Fisher ordered county prosecutors to follow up with Everett’s city prosecutor and police.

Snohomish County deputy prosecutor Joan Cavagnaro today told the judge her office was declining to file charges. There isn’t a sufficient basis to prove the men intended to kill monkey or even that they knowingly and recklessly caused the animal’s death, she said.

Everett city attorney Mike Fisher reached a similar conclusion.

“I can’t create a crime out of a bad outcome,” he said.

He called the animal’s death a tragic mistake likely attributed to poor job performance — not criminal behavior that could be proved beyond a reasonable doubt in court.

Fisher said he was concerned about being asked to substitute his judgment for the judgment of the prosecutors. He said he wouldn’t go so far as to call a citizen’s complaint unconstitutional. He noted that a case focusing on that question is now pending before the state Supreme Court.

“I’d rather see that court rule utilized where there haven’t been diligent efforts on the part of police and the prosecutor’s office,” he said.

The citizen’s complaint process is expected to be reviewed by the state’s high court next year. In that case, Karp asked the court to overturn a Spokane judge’s ruling that denied the private prosecution of two sheriff’s deputies after their use of Tasers killed an escaped calf.

The judge in Spokane determined a citizen’s filing of criminal complaints violates the separation of powers between branches of government.

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