Three Men Charged in Shark-Dragging Video

Months after a video of a man dragging a shark behind his boat went viral, investigators say they are still working on the case.

(WTSP) - Three people have been charged in the shark-dragging video that went viral and outraged viewers.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) and Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office announced the charges Tuesday night.

The charges resulted from a four-month-long investigation into the video and other disturbing images on social media.

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The suspects and their charges are as follows:

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Michael Wenzel, 21, of Palmetto
• Two felony counts of Aggravated Animal Cruelty (Third-degree felony).
• One misdemeanor count of Illegal Method of Take – Shark (Second-degree misdemeanor).

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Robert Lee Benac, 28, of Bradenton
• Two felony counts of Aggravated Animal Cruelty (Third-degree felony).
• One misdemeanor count of Illegal Method of Take – Shark (Second-degree misdemeanor).

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Spencer Heintz, 23, of Palmetto
• Two felony counts of Aggravated Animal Cruelty (Third-degree felony).

The three have already been notified of their charges, turned themselves in at local jails and have been released on bail.

Third-degree felonies are punishable up to 5 years in jail; 5 years probation; and $5,000 fine.

Second-degree misdemeanors are punishable up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine.

The video, which showed the shark tied by its tail, dragged backward by a speeding boat possibly traveling at 30 mph. sparked outrage online and among animal experts.

“It’s suffocating, beaten on the waves  … (the) last moments of its life complete torture,” says Dr. Robert Hueter, Mote Marine’s director of the Center for Shark Research. "They don’t deserve the right to fish.”

The video also sparked protests against the MTV show "Siesta Key," because one of the people featured on the reality series, Alex Kompothecras, was friends with Wenzel. A premiere party for the show was canceled in July after the controversy began.

 

© 2018 WTSP-TV


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