NEW YORK – A man who raised a tiger in his New York apartment limped out of a courthouse on a badly bitten leg Tuesday, wishing he could be reunited with his wild pet.
"I'd love to see my tiger," Antoine Yates (search) said of the 400-pound cat, Ming, as he left state court, released without bail. "He didn't really attack me. He got confused and I got caught in the crossfire."
Yates, 31, faces a charge of reckless endangerment and two counts of possession of a wild animal (search). Conviction for reckless endangerment carries a sentence of up to seven years.
Judge Melissa Jackson rejected a prosecutor's argument that Yates should be held on $15,000 bail because he lied about his injuries to doctors and then fled to Philadelphia.
Yates, a bitten arm hanging in a sling, appeared tired as he described how Ming, an orange and white Siberian-Bengal mix (search), attacked him last Wednesday in an apparent attempt to get at a pet kitten in the apartment.
Animal control officers, police and Bronx Zoo workers on Saturday captured the 20-month-old tiger, which had been kept in the fifth-floor apartment in Harlem since he was a 6-week-old cub.
They also found a 5-foot-long alligator. Both were tranquilized and removed to sanctuaries.
Assistant District Attorney Jeremy Saland said Yates was a "man trying to create an animal sanctuary in his apartment." He suggested that Yates had once had a pet lion.
"It's clear this defendant's actions were extremely reckless," Saland said.
Defense lawyer Raymond Colon said his client lied to hospital doctors in New York, saying he had been bitten by a pit bull, because he feared authorities would destroy his tiger.
"There was no criminal intent here, and he tried as much as possible not to be reckless," Colon said.
Outside court, Yates described the attack as a tragic accident, saying the tiger charged the cat and he jumped in the way. It was then, he said, that he was bitten in the arm and leg.