Hearing delayed for man accused of killing monkey

AP News
Posted: Dec 05, 2012 12:49 PM

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — A 22-year-old Idaho man accused of killing a monkey in the Boise zoo last month won more time to prepare to defend himself against felony burglary and grand theft charges.

Michael J. Watkins' court-appointed defense attorney, Ann Cosho, told a 4th District Court magistrate judge on Wednesday she hadn't had adequate opportunity to review about 130 pages of documents stemming from the Nov. 17 break-in at Zoo Boise.

"It's quite extensive," Cosho told Judge Theresa Gardunia, of papers including witness statements and police reports. "We'd prefer more time than less."

Consequently, Gardunia pushed back Watkins' preliminary hearing until Jan. 17, in part because the upcoming Christmas holiday has interfered with her court schedule.

The delay came over objections from prosecutors, who said they had lined up a list of law enforcement officers and zoo officials to testify on Wednesday about what happened the night the patas monkey was killed.

"We have to proceed today," Ada County Deputy Prosecutor Fafa Alidjani said.

But Gardunia said Watkins and his defense team were due an adequate opportunity to prepare to enter a plea in the case, which has garnered media attention across Idaho and the country.

"I'm sorry the state is inconvenienced with certain subpoenas," Gardunia told Alidjani. But "he has the right to have a meaningful discussion" with his lawyers about the charges.

Prosecutors contend Watkins concluded a drunken evening by trying to steal the animal but wound up bludgeoning it to death after it fought back.

Through his public defenders, Watkins has offered a different version: He and another person entered the zoo in the early morning hours; the monkey was taken from its cage, after which Watkins tried to throw it over the fence — to free it. When that failed, the monkey turned on Watkins, who killed it in self-defense.

The felony burglary charge carries a penalty of up to 10 years in prison, with the theft charge punishable with up to 14 years behind bars.

Idaho law allows prosecutors to bring a grand theft charge against someone accused of killing livestock or other animals valued at more than $150 dollars.

Watkins, from Fruitland in western Idaho, remains in Ada County Jail, where he's been held since Nov. 20 on a $100,000 bond. He has previous misdemeanor drug and probation violation convictions.

On Wednesday, he appeared in court in Boise wearing jailhouse stripes, handcuffs and leg restraints. His dark, close-cropped hair had grown since his arrest last month.

He was calm, exchanging pleasantries with an Ada County deputy accompanying him.

"How's your day going?" Watkins asked.

When the deputy nodded, Watkins responded, "Good."

Another patas monkey at Zoo Boise wasn't harmed in the attack, and earlier this week officials at the facility in Idaho's capital city announced they would be receiving two more patas monkeys from the Rosamund Gifford Zoo in Syracuse, N.Y.

The zoo has also installed razor wire around the monkey enclosures, to prevent another, similar break-in.