prim88 at home.com
Fri Dec 14 08:32:40 EST 2001
The following is an article downloaded from the Post Dispatch online:
Jury suggests 30-day sentence for chimp killer
BY CHRIS CARROLL
Of the Post-Dispatch
12/13/2001 09:35 PM
A Festus teen-ager should serve 30 days in jail and pay a fine for shooting
a chimpanzee that escaped from its pen, a Jefferson County jury recommended
The jury found Jason Coats, 18, guilty of felony property damage and
misdemeanor animal abuse in the shooting April 19 of Suzy, a 28-year-old
chimp that Coats had claimed was threatening him, his friends and his dog.
The convictions carry sentencing of up to five years in prison. Circuit
Judge Gary P. Kramer will sentence Coats on March 4.
The chimpanzee escaped with two other apes from a compound near Festus that
houses Chimparty, a business that supplies juvenile chimps for parties and
TV commercials. Older chimps, including those that escaped, also live at the
compound on Highway CC.
Coats and three of his friends testified that they drove up to Coats' house
and were confronted by angry chimps that attacked the car, charged the teens
and fought with Coats' dog.
Coats said he retrieved a 20-gauge shotgun from his house and shot Suzy when
he believed she might charge him.
But Suzy's owner, Connie Casey, and neighbors who witnessed the shooting
said the chimps had been exploring and playing - even picking flowers - not
Prosecution witnesses said Coats' dog, Lucky, wasn't there when the shooting
A juror, Eugene Day, of Hillsboro, said the jury had to decide which
witnesses were more credible, and sided with Casey and the neighbors.
Prosecution witnesses said that Coats seemed elated by the shootings, and
after shooting Suzy, climbed onto the roof of his house with a gun to get
clear shots at the other animals.
But Coats testified he had climbed unarmed onto the roof of his house to
replace a screen in an upstairs window because he was concerned a chimp
might come through the window.
Day said that sounded unbelievable.
"I think he wanted to get him a chimp and when he got one, he wanted to get
some more," he said.
Coats' attorney, Clinton Wright, of the law firm Rosenblum, Schwartz &
Rogers, said the sentence recommendation seemed to be a signal from the jury
that they acknowledged Coats thought he acted properly, even if they did not
believe he did.
"I think they wanted to send a message that they disagree with what he did,
but they understood that he felt he had a right to shoot," he said. "We're
very happy he is not going to be facing penitentiary time."
Michael Griffith, assistant Jefferson County prosecutor, said Coats deserved
a stricter sentence for Suzy's death.
"I think his actions warranted it, but I'm not altogether surprised, given
his young age," he said.
Casey seemed close to tears after the verdict was read. Casey had owned Suzy
since 1984, and said the chimp, which was used to breed baby chimps that
were sold for as much as $50,000, was the crucial head of a chimp family
group the Caseys own.
Suzy was also practically a member of the Casey family, she said.
"I think a fine but no prison sentence is not right," Casey said. "Thirty
days (in jail) is a vacation, but Suzy's dead forever."
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