News Briefs April 10, 2014

Published: Wednesday, April 9, 2014 at 09:26 AM.

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Facebook post of harassing manatees leads to guilty pleas

U.S. Attorney A. Lee Bentley, III has announced Taylor Blake Martin, 22, Alabama, and Seth Andrew Stephenson, 22, Rockledge, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Gregory J. Kelly March 6 to taking (harassing) an endangered species.

Each faces a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a $50,000 fine. A sentencing date has not yet been scheduled.

According to court documents, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service became aware of a video posted on Facebook that showed one individual luring two manatees to a dock with a water hose, and another individual jumping off of a boat dock, “cannonballing” an adult manatee and a calf. Further investigation revealed that Martin was the individual who “cannonballed” on top of the manatees. Stephenson was identified as the one who lured the manatees to the dock with the water hose.

The video shows Martin landing on the back of the adult manatee as the manatees swim away. Stephenson then begins to use the water hose in an attempt to lure the manatees back as the video ends. 

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