Cat accused of delivering drugs to Russian prison colony escapes holding area in petting zoo
A local court in the city of Novomoskovsk is currently hearing a case in which a cat was allegedly used to smuggle drugs into a prison colony. The cat himself was seized as physical evidence during the investigative phase of the case and placed in a secure housing environment at the local petting zoo. Now, the newspaper Kommersant reported, defense attorneys have discovered that the cat ran away months ago.
Investigators allege that Eduard Dolgintsev, a prisoner in the Tula region’s Colony Number 6, decided to make it easier for his fellow prisoners to obtain narcotic substances from the outside world by using the cat to make deliveries. Dolgintsev has been accused of putting a collar with a secret compartment on the cat after the animal entered the prison colony through a hole in the fence. The case against Dolgintsev is based on testimony from three anonymous witnesses who say they ordered drugs from the defendant.
His sidekick, who is described as “a cat with black, white, and gray shades of fur,” was classified as physical evidence and transferred to a holding area in a Novomoskovsk petting zoo in August 2018. In September 2019, when defense attorney Dmitry Sotnikov visited the petting zoo to “familiarize himself with the evidence,” he was told that the cat had run away the previous winter. Petting zoo staffers said the cat had been let out of his cage every once in a while to warm up, but on one occasion, he encountered a group of dogs and ran away in a fright.
Sotnikov told journalists that he had intended to request that the cat take part in an investigative experiment: The attorney planned to put a collar containing a small package on the cat and observe the animal’s subsequent behavior. The defense argued that such a test would enable the court to determine “to what degree a cat would really be a viable instrument for the alleged crime at hand.”
A number of attorneys who spoke with Kommersant said that the loss of an important piece of evidence can have major effects on a criminal case, up to and including dropped charges.
“If no proof was previously obtained that the cat really did serve as a direct instrument in the crime, then in theory, the case should be closed,” attorney Dmitry Dzhulai argued. “It all depends on what investigative procedures were undertaken with the cat: whether it was closely examined, for example, or whether traces of narcotic substances were found in its fur. Only then would one be able to say that a crime had truly occurred.”
Translation by Hilah Kohen