Zoo researcher accused of poisoning cat takes stand

A National Zoo researcher on trial for charges of poisoning feral cats in her D.C. neighborhood took the stand in her own defense Wednesday.

Nico Dauphine told a D.C. superior court judge in response to the allegations, "absolutely not, no I did not." The Ph.D. Smithsonian Institution researcher is accused of trying to poison street cats outside her apartment building on 15th Street in Northwest.

Dauphine works at the National Zoo studying wild birds, where her research has focused on one of birds’ enemies: cats.

An online lecture by Dauphine is entitled “apocalypse meow - free ranging cats and the destruction of American wildlife." Prosecutors argued in March that the woman put rat poison and antifreeze in food dishes meant for the neighborhood cats.

Prosecutors showed a surveillance tape of Dauphine walking up to a planter where the food was kept, reaching into her purse, then reaching into the cat food and leaving.

Dauphine argued in court that she tried to get rid of the food because it attracted rats. “I went over to the planter, took out the food, put it in a plastic bag and threw it out,” she said.

Prosecutors brought up a number of quotes and articles in which they said the zoo researcher described cats as an invasive species and advocated euthanasia. She said her words were often re-written and said she was misquoted, for example saying about a letter published in the New York Times that "those are my words but they are heavily edited."

Both sides presented closing arguments Wednesday. Judge Truman Morrison will give his verdict Monday at 3 p.m.