Charlestown zoo owner still at large as state moves for default judgment, dissolution

As the search for animals missing from an embattled Charlestown zoo continues, the state of Indiana is seeking default judgment and judicial dissolution that would formally end Wildlife in Need’s operations.

Meanwhile, zoo owner Tim Stark remains at large following an arrest warrant issued in Marion County, as well as an additional warrant in Clark County.

Marion Superior Judge David Dreyer issued a warrant for Stark’s arrest last month after the Indianapolis Zoological Society began removing animals from the WIN property as part of a court-ordered receivership.

Stark had blocked the removal team’s initial entrance onto zoo property, then later appeared to incite violence against members of the team in a profanity-laced Facebook video.

Additionally, Stark has been accused of taking animals from the zoo and hiding them from the removal team in violation of Dreyer’s order. A Monday filing from the state indicated more than $100,000 worth of animals were still missing, as was Stark himself.

Indiana Attorney General Curtis Hill sued to shut down the Charlestown zoo in February,  and on Monday his office moved for a hearing on contempt sanctions this month and a hearing on judicial dissolution next month.

“Stark and WIN have demonstrated a severe disregard for the Court’s orders, and any relief besides a default judgment would be inadequate,” the state wrote.

Hill’s office pointed to the four factors in Indiana Code § 23-17-24-1(a) that allow for judicial dissolution of a nonprofit such as WIN: obtaining articles of incorporation through fraud, exceeding or abusing a corporation’s lawful authority, misapplying or wasting corporate assets, or an inability to carry out corporate purposes.

“If necessary, the State requests a hearing to demonstrate sufficient grounds exist for the judicial dissolution of WIN,” Hill’s office wrote.

Stark has proceeded pro se in the state case since February, while his codefendant, zoo officer Melisa Lane, was initially represented J. Clayton Culotta, the same lawyer representing WIN. However, Culotta withdrew as Lane’s counsel in July and moved this week to withdraw as counsel for the zoo.

Culotta did not respond to an Indiana Lawyer request for comment on the state case, State of Indiana v. Wildlife in Need and Wildlife in Deed, Inc., Timothy Stark, Melisa Lane, 49D10-2002-PL-006192.

Stark is also now facing criminal charges related to the state’s efforts to shut down his zoo. The Clark County case filed Monday charges him with misdemeanor battery and felony intimidation.

According to the News and Tribune of Jeffersonville, the charges date back to a March court-ordered inspection of the WIN property,  which Stark had tried to stop.  A documentary crew for the Netflix series “Tiger King” — which features Stark — was filming during the incident, the paper reported.

Footage reviewed by investigators showed Stark grabbing the arm of deputy attorney general Philip Rizzo, who can be heard saying, “You’re not touching me, you’re not touching me.” Stark replied, “I’ll whoop your a–,” the News and Tribune reported.

Prior to the inspection, Dreyer had ordered Stark not to interfere with the state’s team.

The criminal case is State of Indiana v. Timothy Stark, 10C03-2009-F6-001273. Online court records do not list an attorney for Stark in that case.

The criminal arrest warrant was issued Tuesday while the warrant in the state’s case was issued Sept. 16. Online court records for both cases do not indicate that the warrants had been executed as of Thursday morning.

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