Christopher “The Animal” Hartman is sprawled out on the tattered, red couch at Ithaca’s Opportunities, Alternatives, and Resources center, otherwise affectionately referred to as “518” – a nod to its street address by those who are frequent clients and users of OAR’s services.
He is wearing the same oversized, stained, beige blazer and ragged, light-wash blue jeans that he has had on for a few days now, and a crumpled up, half-smoked joint is safely curled up in his fist.
“I am just a misunderstood American hero,” says Hartman, whose last stint in jail was this past summer, for a charge he claims was unjust.
“Those bastard cops shot me in my back with a Taser gun and then kicked me when I fell down. They charged me with obstruction of governmental administration and, of course, this was right before they were all required to wear body cameras.” He smiles, as if he is privy to a police secret that he can’t expose.
As he goes on grinning the 39 year old reveals a set of already graying teeth, half of which are either chipped or missing altogether. Hartman is familiar with Ithaca’s Police Department. Born and raised in Ithaca, New York, Hartman was first incarcerated in 2000, for trespassing charges in Owego County. “I sat in that Owego jail for a few days, it was a hell hole. They all are.”