A California man is in trouble again after failing to comply with a court order to give up his monkey and doctoring evidence to make it appear he had done so.
Authorities said David Grigorian pleaded guilty earlier this year to possessing a marmoset without a permit, which is illegal in California, and had agreed to either turn the animal over or have it transported out of state. Grigorian was told to come back to court this week and show Commissioner Thomas Grodin that he had complied.
On Wednesday, Grigorian told the commissioner that Cheeta, a 7-year-old marmoset, was now safely in Mexico. According to the report, to prove the ape’s whereabouts he "displayed a photo of Cheeta beside a recently dated Mexican newspaper. . . . Red, white and green decorations [the colors of the Mexican flag] filled the background." But Grigorian broke down under cross-examination by the skeptical commissioner, and eventually admitted that the monkey was actually in downtown Los Angeles. Parts of which, as you may know, are also festooned with red, white and green decorations.
Despite furious Googling I have been unable to locate a copy of the bogus photo. The one shown here is at least a picture of an ape named "Cheeta," namely the chimpanzee who appeared by that name in the "Tarzan" movies. This picture was taken on the occasion of Cheeta’s 75th birthday, a milestone that few chimps ever reach. Had Grigorian been able to get his Cheeta into the movies, he could have gotten a permit to keep him, since California does allow nonnative primates to be kept for educational or professional purposes. (I’m not sure whether any "professional" purpose will do, but professional acting is apparently on the list.) But Grigorian didn’t have a permit, which police discovered when they arrested him in January for allegedly making criminal threats at a house in Van Nuys.
Grigorian then agreed to give up the monkey, in a "somewhat complicated plan" under which he would surrender Cheeta to the Department of Fish and Game, which would transfer Cheeta to a courier who would take him to Nevada, where Grigorian would pick him up for delivery to a caretaker in Arizona. What could go wrong? But Grigorian was later stopped for a traffic violation in Burbank, and unfortunately Cheeta was found riding shotgun. This week’s hearing was to confirm that this time, Cheeta had been relocated. Another hearing is now scheduled for next week.
Officials said they sympathized with Grigorian, but that the law did not allow him to keep an ape without a permit. They said they would try to place Cheeta in a zoo or with a private owner in a nearby state so that Grigorian could visit him.