A man who reportedly sold an illegal monkey to Chris Brown was sentenced Wednesday (June 8) to five years probation and more than $90,000 in fines for violating federal wildlife laws.
The sentence came three months after Jimmy Wayne Hammonds, an exotic animal breeder also known as “The Monkey Whisperer,” pleaded guilty to five criminal counts, including a charge of conspiracy to commit wildlife trafficking for selling a capuchin monkey to the singer in 2017.
Brown was not explicitly named, but court documents said the monkey sold to “Person 1” was seized on the same day that The Associated Press reported that authorities seized a capuchin from Brown’s Los Angeles home. Brown faced misdemeanor charges but was not named in the federal case against Hammond.
A rep for Brown did not return Billboard‘s requests for comment. Hammond’s attorney Gary Ostrow praised the court for declining to impose any prison time, noting that many witnesses had made statements vouching for him and his business. “Contrary to what the government would have you believe, Mr. Hammonds is an animal lover, whose facility and practices in the exotic animal trade reflect same,” Ostrow told Billboard. “The crimes to which he pled are aberrations and do not remotely reflect Jimmy’s practices.”
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, which says that it tipped off authorities to Brown’s illegal pet and ultimately sparked the investigation into Hammonds, said in a statement Wednesday that the sentence should have been stiffer.
“This brazen career criminal got off easy, but the conviction alone should be enough to keep him out of the monkey-exploitation business as long as federal officials do their jobs and revoke his federal Animal Welfare Act license,” PETA rep Michelle Sinnott said.
In technical terms, prosecutors said Hammonds’ sale of the capuchin monkey to Brown violated the Lacy Act, a federal statute that makes it illegal to traffic in illegal animals, because it is illegal to own such a primate in California. They also accused him of violating the Endangered Species Act by selling cotton-top tamarins to several other buyers across the country.
Wednesday’s sentence is far lower than statutory maximums, which said Hammonds could have faced as much as eight years in prison, six years of probation and $400,000 in fines.