Hearing delayed for man accused of killing monkey

Last Updated: Wed, Dec 05, 2012 20:30 hrs

The lawyer for an Idaho man accused of killing a monkey in the Boise zoo last month said Wednesday she was overloaded by the prosecution's evidence, prompting a judge to grant her more time to prepare her client's defense.

Public defense lawyer Ann Cosho said documents that prosecutors are using to bolster their case against Michael J. Watkins are "quite extensive."

Authorities say Watkins, 22, broke into Zoo Boise on Nov. 17 after a night of heavy drinking and tried to steal a patas monkey, a small ground-dwelling animal known for its distinctive mustache. The monkey fought back, police say, and Watkins beat it to death with a tree branch.

Watkins has offered a different version. He acknowledges entering the zoo, saying he and a friend got in during the early morning hours. He says he wanted to free the monkey and that when it was taken from its cage he tried to throw it over the fence. When that failed, Watkins says, the monkey turned on him and attacked. He says the monkey was injured in the ensuing scuffle.

Police don't plan to charge anyone else in the animal's death, saying they have no evidence the other man entered the zoo.

Watkins faces felony theft and burglary charges. Idaho law allows prosecutors to bring a grand theft charge against someone accused of killing animals valued at more than $150 dollars.

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.

Watkins, from Fruitland in western Idaho, appeared Wednesday in 4th District Court in Boise where Magistrate Judge Theresa Gardunia pushed back his preliminary hearing until Jan. 17.

The delay came over objections from prosecutors, who were prepared to present their side today in a case that has garnered media attention across the nation.

Watkins remains in Ada County Jail, where he's been held since Nov. 20 on a $100,000 bond. He hasn't yet entered a plea.

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

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.

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