Ballard leaves state with spider monkey

OKEECHOBEE — A bond hearing was set to be held at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, June 21, in Courtroom D of the Okeechobee County Judicial Center for Tina Ballard — the owner of Spanky, the spider monkey that has been alleged to have attacked two separate Home Depot employees on Sunday, May 27, and Monday, June 4.

Ballard was not present at the bond hearing.

This is Spanky the monkey.

Ballard is being charged with misdemeanors of two counts of maintaining captive wildlife in a neglectful manner, and one count on failure to vaccinate an animal for rabies, improper caging of captive class I, II, or specified III wildlife, and culpable negligence causing harm. She is also being charged with failure to have a safety entrance for captive class I, II, or specified III wildlife which is a violation of Florida Administrative Code 68A-6.003(1)(a).

19th Judicial Circuit County Court Judge Jerald D. Bryant, who presided over the bond hearing, set Ballard’s bond amount to $29,000 on the aforementioned charges. He also informed Ballard’s attorney, Alex Weintraub, that she is now given a court order stating she could not be in possession of the spider monkey but that Spanky could remain in the possession of another authorized entity. “If law enforcement finds her (Ballard) in possession of it (Spanky), then they can seize the monkey at that point and give it to someone who is authorized to possess it,” Judge Bryant said.

In an email sent on Wednesday, June 20, at 11:52 a.m. from Ballard to Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission Officer Bradley Toby, she stated, “I do not trust that the State will not try and take Spanky, as you know. So I have taken her and my other animals home to assure they are not confiscated … I have been caring for my injured mother and my 19-year-old daughter (who needs a heart transplant) in North Carolina and feel it is more important to be there for them.”

Ballard’s email to Officer Toby also stated, “I have a phone interview set up with my attorney to handle bail and all that, I stayed in Florida while on quarantine and completed all health issues with Spanky. I showed up for my hearing and will do so again on July 16. I was to complete Spanky’s habitat within the next two days, however, felt it more important to get her to safety with my daughter and mother after hearing how full-on they are coming after me. I have no one here to care for the animals and legally for Spanky. I am doing my best to comply with all requirements and have no desire to be a fugitive.”

Assistant state attorney Ashley Albright stated to the court, “If you read the context of the email sent yesterday, not only does she indicate she was called by an attorney but that she was also aware of a bond hearing today and she’s intentionally leaving the state in order to hide the monkey.”

In a Facebook post by Ballard she stated, “My license is in jeopardy, Spanky and I literally have to move out of the state of Florida because of that.”

Ballard did have a prior case set for arraignment on Monday, June 18, which she was present for, prior to her apparent departure.

Judge Bryant noted, in the acquisition documents for Spanky, a North Carolina address for a veterinarian was listed where the spider monkey received examinations.

According to FWC Officer Jesse Alford’s testimony, through his investigation on May 27, (the first incident that went unreported to law enforcement), he found that a store manager had instructed Ballard not to come to the store with the monkey.

Per testimony from Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office Civil Division — whose purpose and function is to serve and execute the various legal processes issued not only by and for the several non-criminal courts of the state and its subdivisions, but also for the legal community and the general public — Deputy Rodney Rucks attempted to serve Ballard “at least six times” between Tuesday, June 19, and Thursday, June 21. He stated there was a locked gate at the front of Ballard’s property and upon conversation with a neighbor discovered Ballard was either hiding or had left the county.

Ballard’s arraignment has been set for 9 a.m. on July 16.

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