Final defendant in shark-dragging case takes plea deal
TAMPA, Fla. - The video of a shark being dragged behind a speedboat is disturbing and public outrage swelled when it went viral.
It lead to three men being charged with animal cruelty but charges were dropped against defendant Spencer Heintz.
In June, defendant Michael Wenzel pleaded guilty to misdemeanor animal cruelty, reduced from a felony charge. Wenzel got 10 days in jail, to be served on the weekends, and several months probation.
Some animal activists called it a slap on the wrist and saw very little remorse from Wenzel. His smirk in the courtroom at the time even got the attention of Hillsborough Judge Mark Wolfe
"Is something funny?" asked Wolfe.
Wenzel quickly replied, "no your honor."
Thursday, it was Robert Benac's turn.
At first, he rejected the same deal Wenzel took earlier this year, but as a jury trial approached, the deal began to seem like the right idea.
Wenzel's attorney, Justin Petredis said, "certainly every trial has an inherent risk and this risks were very high in this case."
The jury would also have seen disturbing video of the same shark being shot several times, and later dragged.
All of it seemed like too much for Benac to overcome.
"That was a worry that the emotions and anger of a jury will outweigh what we hoped common sense would take over," said Petredis.
Under his plea agreement, Benac will serve 10 days in jail on the weekends in Manatee County, followed by 11 months probation and includes 125 hours of community service at an animal shelter.
Benac told the judge he will begin his jail time this weekend.