By Paul Lomax and Tom Liddy
MANHATTAN — A homeless man accused along with a cohort of snatching a cuddly rabbit from the window of a SoHo boutique last week while donning a cowboy hat was tipsy and just wanted a pet, according to court documents and the man's lawyer.
Thomas R. Smith, 62, and Andrea Ruggieri, 45, who is also homeless, appeared in Manhattan Criminal Court Sunday to face charges of petit larceny and possession of stolen property charges for the hare-raising heist at the Alexander Berardi store on Prince Street on March 14, prosecutors said.
"He did it because he loved the bunny," said Smith's attorney John Carney. "He wanted to take care of something. He couldn't afford to buy a pet."
The rabbit at the center of the case, "Miss Cooper," was allegedly snatched on March 14 by a mustachioed man in a cowboy hat.
Surveillance video obtained by DNAinfo, which broke the story, shows a person in a cowboy hat near the rabbit.
According to court documents, Ruggieri acted as a lookout while Smith stashed the bunny inside his coat.
"I willfully entered a dress shop on Prince Street and while under the influence of alcohol did steal their rabbit," Smith allegedly told investigators.
The store's co-owner, Christopher Kulukundis, said that the floppy eared, brown-and-white Holland lop was returned in a fish tank full of Apple Jacks to the First Precinct stationhouse by a homeless man who knew the suspects.
"His friend saw the story [about the rabbit] on the TV and told him to give the rabbit back," said Carney about his client. "This story is very sad. He's very lonely, but he did take care of the rabbit."
The year-old Miss Cooper, a pet belonging to Kulukundis and his business partner Alexander Berardi, travels back and forth to the store every day.
Kulukundis said that the bunny was stolen Wednesday night while he was helping a customer around 8 p.m.
He said that the suspects, who described themselves as artists, frequently stopped by to pet the rabbit, which was adored by celebs such as model Christy Turlington and actress Jane Krakowski.
"I hear the rabbit is doing fine," said Carney. "I believe they fed him green lettuce yesterday in honor of St. Patrick's Day."
Smith was held on $500 bail, and Ruggieri was freed.
“We feel bad for them but at the same time they [allegedly] committed a crime," Berardi told DNAinfo. "I just hope they get the help they need.”
Additional reporting by Andrea Swalec