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Man accused in death of Busch Garden flamingo ordered to in-home competency training

TAMPA — The man accused of killing a beloved Busch Gardens flamingo drinks alcohol frequently, doesn't always take his psychiatric medication and has a history of trouble with the law, attorneys told a judge Wednesday.

Those issues were the focus of a court hearing at which Circuit Judge Tom Barber ordered Joseph Corrao to undergo in-home competency training before the animal cruelty case against him can continue.

"From everything I've heard, I think he's unstable," Barber said.

Corrao, 45, faces a charge of aggravated animal cruelty in the Aug. 2 death of Pinky the flamingo. Tampa police said he grabbed Pinky from an enclosure and threw her to the ground. She was severely injured and later euthanized.

Two doctors who examined Corrao submitted reports that said he suffers from mental illness that makes him incapable of understanding the case against him.

In court Wednesday, Assistant State Attorney Gregory Pizzo recited Corrao's history of arrests. It includes three drunken driving convictions.

In one case, he told one of his children to drive a car while he was intoxicated. Another prior arrest also involved allegations of animal cruelty.

Corrao's mother, Marguerite Corrao, said her son receives Social Security disability money due to his mental illness. She said he usually drinks a few beers a day and sometimes hard liquor when he is depressed. But he has not had a drink since Ash Wednesday three weeks ago.

She has seen him take his medication before, she said. He has not had a driver's license for four years.

Pizzo asked about the day Corrao was examined and was told he reported not taking his medication. Pizzo also asked if she recalled her son saying, "Let's find a restaurant where we can get a beer" when he left one of the exams.

She said she thought her son said it as a joke.

Corrao's defense attorney, Jessica Russ, noted that he voluntarily committed himself for a psychiatric evaluation in November, three months after his arrest. Russ told the judge he did so because he was distraught over a friend's death.

Joseph S. Paight, a psychologist who examined Corrao, gave brief testimony in which he said Corrao's illness is "mild."

"He's definitely going to be able to gain competency, in my opinion," Paight said.

Barber said he would prefer to send Corrao to a state hospital, but the law did not allow that option since Corrao poses no imminent threat to himself or others.

"If it was up to me, strictly, I think he should go to Florida State Hospital, where he's forced to take his medication," the judge said.

He ordered Corrao to undergo in-home competency training. He also forbid Corrao from drinking alcohol and told him to take his prescribed medication as directed.