Chimpanzee victim St. James Davis v. West Covina

Former NASCAR driver St. James Davis is in critical condition after losing a nose, a cheek, an eye, his lips, a foot, all of his fingers, his testicles, and part of his buttocks to a disturbingly gruesome chimpanzee attack at a wildlife sanctuary Thursday; his wife, LaDonna, also lost a thumb before the escaped chimps were shot by the sanctuary owners.

The Davises were visiting a different chimpanzee, their former pet, Moe. They had previously settled a civil rights lawsuit against West Covina for $100,000 as part of the fallout stemming from the city criminally charging the couple for keeping a dangerous animal. His lawyer, Gloria Allred, accused the city of overreacting when Moe bit a policeman and a woman in separate incidents, and succeeded in creating enough of a press-storm that the city backed down after having poured a quarter million dollars into Moe-related legal fees. (The policeman required $250,000 in medical treatment.) Davis won a previous lawsuit against West Covina in the 1960s allowing him to keep his chimpanzee in town because a judge held the chimp “doesn’t have the traits of a wild animal and was somewhat better behaved than some people.” But never fear, Ms. Allred is on this case also, and has been cited by the press as demanding “immediate answers”; the couple hasn’t decided whether they’ll sue. (David Pierson and Mitchell Landsberg, “A Primate Party Gone Horribly Awry”, Los Angeles Times, Mar. 5; Christina L. Esparza, “Saga of Moe takes a bizarre twist”, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Mar. 3; Christina L. Esparza, Ruby Gonzales, and Karen Rubin, “Moe’s owners mauled”, San Gabriel Valley Tribune, Mar. 4; AP, Mar. 5; “Woman Has Faith in Chimps Despite Attack”, Good Morning America, Mar. 7; “Officials try to find what caused chimp attack”, KGET-17, Mar. 7; Cara Mia DiMassa, “2 Cities Can’t Get the Hang of Chimp’s Situation”, Los Angeles Times, May 10, 2002; Linda Deutsch, AP, Oct. 15, 1999; AFP, Feb. 4, 2000 (kibo commentary); Richard Winton, “Los Angeles to remain Moe-less”, Los Angeles Times, Jul. 21, 2001; Jeff Jardine, “Chimp charm is film illusion”, Modesto Bee, Mar. 6). Once upon a time, Moe was considered a leading candidate for the principle that animals should have court standing. (Amanda Onion, “Lawyers: Animals Should Be Able to Sue”, ABC News, May 13, 2002).

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