JOLIET – A tiger walks into a Lockport bar and its owner ends up hearing about a guy named Alford.
The case of Shere Khan was resolved Friday when John Basile, who operates the Big Run Wolf Ranch, admitted to bringing the unmuzzled tiger into Uncle Richie's Bar in December 2013. Judge Ray Nash sentenced Basile to a year of court supervision and $500 fine.
The case had been scheduled to go to trial Monday but defense attorney Jennifer Kearney and Will County Assistant State's Attorney Chris Regis arranged for two counts of reckless conduct and two counts of possession of a dangerous animal to be dismissed and to have Basile charged with disorderly conduct, a class C misdemeanor that carries a sentence up to 30 days in jail.
"[Pleading under] Alford vs. North Carolina ... is not nearly as common as a blind plea. It does not require you to admit guilt or [liability]," Nash said to Basile.
Shere Khan was only weeks old in December 2013 when Basile brought him to Uncle Richie's, 112 E. Ninth St.
"He brought an unmuzzled tiger, secured on only a leash, into the establishment to provoke a breach of the peace and alarm [customer] Jan Werth," Regis said to Nash.
Werth later told investigators the tiger bit her hand, Regis said during a previous court appearance. On Feb. 16, 2014, Basile and the tiger, who weighed less than 40 pounds, were walking down Ninth Street when a passing Lockport police officer noticed the commotion.
Basile, who had a federal license to exhibit dangerous animals, said he had been in Uncle Richie's to promote a “Wildfest” event at the ranch and had two handlers with him when he brought the animal inside.
"This has been like a big brick hanging over my head. I'm glad to move on," Basile said Friday.
Basile said Shere Khan is doing well.
"He's up to about 375 pounds and eating 15 to 20 pounds of meat each day, but that will rise up to about 25 pounds as the weather gets colder," he said.
The ranch has started a GoFundMe page seeking donations for a bigger shelter for the tiger.