If, that is, he does 250 hours of community service & finds an animal shelter that will take him for 125 hours
TAMPA, Florida––Holding out for a lighter sentence under a plea bargain offer did not wholly pay off on September 12, 2019 for Robert Lee “Bo” Benac III, 30.
But Benac did avoid a felony cruelty conviction and will get his fishing license back two years sooner than shark-dragging buddy Michael Wenzel, even if he will have to perform more than twice as much volunteer community service work meanwhile.
Benac was the last of three Florida men to settle charges originally filed as felony cruelty, after they shot and dragged a blacktip shark to death behind a speedboat on June 26, 2017 near Egmont Key in Hillsborough County waters.
Benac pleaded guilty to two misdemeanors
Benac, of Bradenton, Florida, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor charges of aggravated cruelty to animals and violating Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission fishing rules.
Benac was sentenced to serve 10 days in the Hillsborough County jail , the time to be served on weekends, plus 11 months on probation. Benac is also to pay a $2,500 fine and perform 250 hours of community service, half of those hours at an animal shelter.
Benac in addition lost his fishing license for three years.
Benac in March 2019 reportedly refused the same plea deal that fellow shark-dragger Wenzel, 22, accepted. Wenzel, who was videotaped exulting as the men dragged the dying shark, accepted the same jail and probation time, and the same fine of $2,500, but was required to perform only 100 hours of community service, and had his fishing privileges suspended for five years.
Wenzel pleaded to one felony
Wenzel pleaded guilty, reported Joe Hendricks of the Anna Maria Sun, “to a third-degree felony count of aggravated cruelty to animals. A second and similar third-degree animal cruelty charge was dismissed.”
Wenzel, like Benac, also pleaded guilty to violating Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission rules, Hendricks wrote.
“The misdemeanor charge pertained to the illegal taking of a shark,” Hendricks explained. “Video shows Wenzel using a .38 caliber revolver to shoot the shark. State law prohibits taking a shark by any other means than with a hook and line.”
Charges dropped against third defendant
A third Florida man involved in the shark dragging incident, Spencer Heintz, 23, escaped prosecution when Florida assistant state attorney Andrew Hubbard on May 1, 2018 told the court that the state had dropped all charges against him due to a purported lack of evidence.
Heintz had faced two counts of aggravated cruelty to animals.
“Another Florida man on the boat that day, 24-year-old Nicholas Burns Easterling, did not face charges, because he provided information and cooperated with the investigation,” said Courthouse News.
The major evidence against the defendants was a widely distributed video that Wenzel posted to social media on July 24, 2017.