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Man who kidnapped Maki the lemur from San Francisco Zoo launched from jail to psychological well being remedy

The man who broke into a San Francisco Zoo exhibit in 2020 and kidnapped an endangered ring-tailed lemur has accepted a plea deal for the attention-grabbing heist, which requires mental health treatment but no additional jail time.

Cory McGilloway pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor earlier this month after federal prosecutors agreed the 33-year old, who was facing federal charges of violating the Endangered Species Act, needed medical treatment for a bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, according to court documents.

Under the terms of the deal, McGilloway will return to his mother’s home in North Carolina to begin treatment for mental health issues and drug use, according to court documents. He was released from an Alameda County jail last week after spending nearly 18 months in custody awaiting judgment in the case.

“While parts of Mr. McGilloway’s mental health history are murky, the evidence of mental health concerns and Mr. McGilloway’s need for treatment, rather than more incarceration, ultimately led…to a plea agreement,” prosecutors wrote in a sentencing document. McGilloway’s public defender was not immediately available for comment on Thursday.

His late-night lemur caper drew national headlines in October 2020, after he snuck into the zoo’s Lipman Family Lemur Forest habitat and escaped with the endangered ring-tailed lemur. He released the elderly animal at a Daly City preschool two days later. McGilloway was taken into custody in Marin County the same day, after police found photos of the lemur on his cell phone.

Maki returned to the zoo unharmed but died of old age in March.

In court documents, prosecutors and defense attorneys painted McGilloway as a troubled man struggling with addiction. A mental health evaluation determined he was fit to face federal charges despite a bevy of mental health challenges related to his drug use.

Between 2008 and 2021, McGilloway was convicted of 11 crimes that ranged from drug possession and burglary to assault with a deadly weapon.

This month’s plea deal capped off more than two years of legal proceedings in the aftermath of the lemur kidnapping.

Just hours after he released the lemur at the Daly City preschool, McGilloway was arrested for stealing a sanitary service truck in Marin County. During the Oct. 15, 2020 arrest, officers found photos of Maki on McGilloway’s cell phone. He received probation on that case and was ordered to attend weekly mental health classes and take his prescribed medication, his defense attorney said at the time.

McGilloway was then transferred to San Francisco to face state charges of second degree burglary, grand theft and vandalism charges and a federal charge of violating the Endangered Species Act in Maki’s abduction.

Federal prosecutors reduced those charges to a misdemeanor on the condition that McGilloway return to his mother’s North Carolina home to begin treatment for at least three months. In court filings, prosecutors said McGilloway had stabilized during his time in custody and “intends to start a new in North Carolina,” bolstered by family members.

Nora Mishanec is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: nora.mishanec@sfchronicle.com

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