Legislators changed the "grandfather clause" in 2004 to make it apply only to animals owned before Oct. 1, 2003, and weighing less than 50 pounds, leaving Travis out. That means the chimp was illegally owned by Herold after that, because she was never required by environmental officials to obtain a permit, Willinger said.
However, the attorney general's office has argued that DEP officials believed that the law was vague and hard to enforce, and that the agency did not have "unilateral authority" to remove the animal from Herold's home against her will.
Newman said Friday in behalf of Nash: "It is abundantly clear that the Department of Environmental Protection received numerous warnings and gathered information regarding the dangers presented by an adult, male chimpanzee living in a private residence. "
He gave as examples: "DEP's knowledge of the chimpanzee's escape in 2003 in downtown Stamford, the legislation proposed by DEP in 2004 to require a permit for possession of a primate weighing over 50 pounds, memoranda authored by DEP personnel in 2005 and 2008, and telephone calls to DEP personnel in the fall of 2008 by a person with direct knowledge of the increasingly volatile behavior of the chimpanzee."
All of those things, he said, "lead any fair-minded person to one conclusion: that the DEP was negligent by failing to address this hazardous situation. DEP had the authority and the opportunity to seize this animal — 'an accident waiting to happen' — and prevent the tragic attack on Charla Nash. It took no action. On behalf of Ms. Nash we are asking for the chance to present our case in a court of law."
In an interview with The Courant in March, Nash said: "I know my health [care cost] is in millions of dollars — millions. I don't want to owe everyone for the rest of my life, and I don't want to be a burden on everyone the rest of my life."
Her main objective was getting "strong and healthy." She added, however, "I hope that I do get my day in court."
In court papers filed in April, lawyers for the state attorney general's office said: "[T]he state recognizes that [Nash's] injuries are indeed profound," but that Nash's "proper remedy is against the owner of the chimpanzee or other appropriate private parties."
Nash has filed a $50 million lawsuit against Herold's estate.
Jon Lender is a reporter on The Courant's investigative desk, with a focus on government and politics. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, 860-241-6524, or c/o The Hartford Courant, 285 Broad St., Hartford, CT 06115 and find him on Twitter@jonlender.