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Judge Holds Court with Three Snakes

February 3, 1988

CHICAGO (AP) _ The exhibits stuck their tongues out at the judge, one tried to escape and the others just hung around. Cook County Associate Judge Ann Houser knew this was no ordinary case.

Ms. Houser waited until her courtroom was nearly cleared Tuesday before convicting Thomas Fabing of keeping life-threatening reptiles in his home, a misdemeanor. And she told him to take the evidence with him.

Fabing denied that his two Burmese pythons and 8-foot boa constrictor named Crusher were dangerous. The judge set sentencing for March 9.

″They were flicking their tongues at all times,″ Ms. Houser said. ″The female was probably more active than the other two. She was trying to get away,″ she said of Eve, an 18-foot python who weighs about 200 pounds.

The state Department of Agriculture confiscated Eve, Crusher and Adam - the other python - from Fabing’s home in October.

″I was reluctant to have them brought in,″ Ms. Houser said in a telephone interview Tuesday night. ″But I wanted to take every opportunity to examine the evidence.″

Defense attorney Michael Fabing, Thomas’ brother, brought the snakes into the courtroom. Two handlers managed the snakes during the hearing.

″I was concerned about the welfare of my court personnel,″ the judge said, explaining that she told her court recorder he could move before the snakes came in. But he declined in order to hear all the testimony.

Ms. Houser said she ″ordered that the snakes stay in the care and control of the defendant until further notice.″ Fabing said he plans to appeal the conviction.

The judge said she was convinced by the evidence presented by the defense that ″there is no imminent danger to the public as long as the defendant keeps strict control of the snakes.″

Fabing, the attorney, said the whole case is a lot of hoopla for nothing.

″Pythons are not particularly dangerous snakes, but people take a look at a snake that big and are afraid. The fact is, humans are not on their diet, he said. ″If the state is going to adopt a policy of grabbing every snake over 6 feet long, they are going to wind up with 40,000 of them.″

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