NYC man who harbored tiger pleads guilty

July 21, 2004|By Karen Freifeld | Karen Freifeld,NEWSDAY

NEW YORK - Harlem's "Tiger Man," who was arrested for keeping a 400-pound tiger as a pet in a fifth-floor apartment, pleaded guilty yesterday to reckless endangerment.

Antoine Yates, 31, pleaded to a felony that could be considered a raw deal, given that he could have pleaded to a misdemeanor charge a month ago.

Yates, who wore a tiger-print tie to State Supreme Court in Manhattan, said he took the plea so that charges against his 70-year-old mother, Martha, would be dropped.

"I had to take my mother into consideration. She shouldn't have to be going through the system for something I did - for something I love as well," Yates said, referring to Ming, the Siberian-Bengal mix.

Yates, who had turned down a no-jail deal in June, now risks getting stripes of his own when he is sentenced Sept. 16.

He didn't get much sympathy yesterday from State Supreme Court Justice Budd Goodman, who said that there was no defense to charges of harboring a wild animal.

"A tiger is a wild animal as a matter of law. If it's not a habitat, not a lab, not a circus," the judge said, then Yates couldn't have it. "It's a no-brainer ... a slam dunk."

Goodman told Yates he could be sentenced to probation or up to 6 months in jail. If he had been convicted of the felony charge at trial, Yates could have received 2 1/3 to 7 years behind bars.

Newsday is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

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