Before he was cleared of an animal cruelty conviction, former Morristown Human Services Director Tommy Alexander lived under a cloud that is hard to imagine, his lawyer said on Tuesday.
“It was like being a leper, a pariah,” said the attorney, Gary Moylen. “It was almost akin to being convicted of child abuse.”
In a decision made public this week, a Superior Court judge tossed last year’s conviction by a municipal judge in Rockaway Township, asserting that the prosecution had not conclusively proved that Tommy owned and neglected a dog that he said he gave away in late 2011.
“The legal process played itself out and we wish Mr. Alexander and his family the best now that it’s over,” town Administrator Michael Rogers said on Tuesday.
Tommy testified that his former pet, Satin, re-appeared in his old Morristown neighborhood in very bad shape, so he called town Health Officer Samantha Judson for help.
At the time, Tommy oversaw the town’s animal control operations as director of human services.
Municipal Judge Gerard Smith questioned Tommy’s story about giving his pet of seven years to an acquaintance from Essex County prior to moving into a pet-free apartment. But upon reviewing the case, Superior Court Judge Mary Gibbons Whipple had more trouble believing that Tommy would call the health officer if he indeed was responsible for the dog’s severe emaciation.
After the conviction, Tommy, who is being treated for liver cancer, retired from his 35-year career in Morristown.
“He deserved a retirement party. He never got one. The charges were bogus,” Gary Moylen said.
“To be accused of starving a defenseless animal is a terrible thing,” he said. “He’s lived in Morristown his whole life. This was a public disgrace, with great emotional anxiety. He’s labored through it all. This is a large weight off his shoulders. He can hold his head up high and go around town again.”
While his appeal was pending, Tommy ran for town council in this spring’s Democratic primary but fell short.
“I think he felt that this was politically motivated and he wasn’t going to bow down to that pressure,” his lawyer said.
Michael Rogers, the town administrator, noted that the case was referred to the SPCA for investigation, and tried in Rockaway Township, to avoid any appearance of bias.
“It’s important to remember that the town animal control officer took care of an animal that was malnourished and in dire need of help,” the administrator said. “The town spent more than $2,000 to feed and shelter the dog and nurse it back to health.”