Mauled ‘Tarzan’ who leaped into Bronx Zoo tiger’s den pleads not guilty

Posted at 6:54 PM, Jan 11, 2013
and last updated 2013-01-11 20:04:20-05

THE BRONX, New York (PIX11) —   A 25-year-old real estate agent who was mauled by a 400-pound Siberian tiger, after he leaped 17 feet from the monorail at the Bronx Zoo, pleaded not guilty in court Friday to criminal trespassing.

David Villalobos of Mahopac, in Putnam County, survived the 10-minute encounter with Bashuta the tiger last September 21, despite being dragged around the animal’s den and bitten multiple times.  He sustained a broken shoulder, arm and foot, along with the bites. He told police at the time he wanted to be “at one” with the tiger.

Cops and hospital personnel later referred to him as “Tarzan”—and his court appearance Friday was the first time many people saw him in the flesh, since the incident made international headlines.

Tall, dark, and handsome—Villalobos seemed none the worse for wear, as he left court surrounded by officers, his attorney, and his parents.

His father had told one news agency Thursday that his son’s behavior had become erratic last September, while he was using Adderall, a drug prescribed to treat Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.  The drug can have side effects, including mood swings, extreme nervousness, and depression.

When PIX 11 traveled to Mahopac after court, meeting Villalobos’ mother outside the family home, we asked her about the Adderall use as a possible factor in her son’s actions.  “The attorney will speak to you,” the mother said.  She told PIX 11 her son was better and noted that we’d seen him in court.

Villalobos claimed to cops that he was not trying to commit suicide, when he jumped from the monorail into the “Wild Asia” exhibit.  A day or so before the leap, he had posted a photo of a tiger on his Facebook page, and at another point, he posted a dictionary definition of the word, insanity.

PIX 11 spoke to Villalobos’ attorney, Corey Sokoler, Friday evening—asking him whether Adderall played a role in his client’s bizarre act.  “Is it possible a medication impacted his judgment,” the lawyer said to me rhetorically, “That’s something I’ll be investigating.”

Sokoler bristled at one, published report that Villalobos was bragging that he hoped to sell his story.

“That’s  absolutely false,” Sokoler said, about a report that Villalobos might write a book.  “That’s reprehensible.  He doesn’t want to endanger the public, animals, or anyone.”

We met one, young guy—about the same age as Villalobos—coming out of a gym where Villalobos undergoes physical therapy.

When we told him about the charge Villalobos was facing, involving a tiger, Anthony Carfagno said, “He was just trying to touch the tiger?  I mean, sometimes, if you just want to do something, you got to do it.  If he didn’t get killed, more power to him.”

Probably not a great mantra to live by.

Villalobos is due back in court March 12.  If the case goes forward, and he’s convicted, he faces a potential three months in jail for trespassing.