COLUMBUS (WCMH) — In court today, Josh Newell, the barrier jumping, cougar-petting 35-year-old said he hoped the Columbus Zoo would drop the trespassing charge against him. But that wasn’t going to happen.
In fact, not only was he sentenced to two days in jail and given $350 in court costs and fines, but the zoo has banned him for two years.
The zoo said they have never banned anyone before.
Over the weekend he admitted to NBC4 that what he did last week, videotaping himself petting cougars at the zoo, wasn’t such a good idea.
“if I had to do it over, I would’ve stayed within the barrier boundaries,” he told NBC4 on Sunday.
But today, he left court with a friend wearing special t-shirts to commemorate the stunt: “cougar love ” and “make a wild thing purr.”
He says he jumped the barrier, petted the cougars and sent it to YouTube to show a friend who had posted video of himself surfing with sharks.
We asked him if he was just doing this for attention.
“No, The Columbus Zoo wants the attention,” he said. “So, I mean, this changed my life and turned it around so I’m trying to embrace it at this point.”
He also said the zoo was making this a national story.
“I had 15 views. The Columbus Zoo got ahold of it and now it’s like 500,000 or whatever it is. So they’re the ones that made me a YouTube sensation… They’re the ones who are getting all the publicity, people are probably wanting to go to the zoo now to see the cougars,” said Newell. “I’m not that type of person that wants that attention. They’re giving it to me so instead of stressing myself out I’m trying to embrace it.”
Today the zoo isn’t finding any humor or entertainment in any of it.
John Gannon is the Senior Vice President of guest services.
“That’s why why we did decide to press criminal trespassing charges against this gentleman, because it is a serious situation,” he said. “And he could have risked his injury as well as our animals can be injured if guests don’t do what they’re supposed to do.”
Newell previously told NBC4 he expected to be fined, but hopes he’s not banned from the zoo.
“I’ve thought about reaching out to them to do some volunteer work or donations, anything I can do to help them out,” he said.
You can see the full video below: