Three men have been charged in the vile shark-dragging video that landed Siesta Key cast members under fire and cancelled the show’s premiere party back in August.
The video, which went viral on social media and sparked outrage at the time, showed three young men dragging a shark from their boat traveling at high speed.
This launched a four-month investigation by the Florida Fish and Wildlfe Conservation Commission (FWC) and Hillsborough County State Attorney’s Office. On Tuesday, the organizations announced Florida residents Michael Wenzel, 21, and Spencer Heintz, 23, of Palmetto, and Robert Lee Benac, 28, of Bradenton, were each charged with two felony counts of aggravated animal cruelty, a third-degree felony.
Wenzel and Benac were additionally each charged with one misdemeanor count of illegal method of taking a shark.
Siesta Key cast member Alex Kompothecras suffered backlash when the video went viral due to his friendship with one of the culprits. Kompothecras defended himself on his social media pages claiming he took no part in the crimes.
“I had absolutely nothing to do with the shark video,” he wrote on Facebook after the incident. “Yes he’s a friend of mine, but no I don’t agree with what he did. Check your facts before you go posting on my page. Thanks.”
Though Kompothecras’ statement wasn’t enough to keep him away from the scandal. Shortly after, the Siesta Key premiere party was cancelled, although Kompothecras’ father Gary – who funded the season’s pilot – claimed there were “other reasons” for the canceling.
State Attorney for the 13th Judicial Circuit Andrew H. Warren also released a statement regarding the charges today.
“The State Attorney’s Office is committed to holding these men accountable for having engaged in such senseless and unjustifiable animal cruelty. We thank the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission for their work in investigating these crimes, and we stand with them, along with Florida’s fishing and hunting communities, and all those who cherish our precious natural resources, in condemning the torture of our marine wildlife.”
Though Kompothecras often posts his own fishing photos on social media, he has yet to make a statement on the arrests of his friends.
What do you think of these men being charged? Sound off in the comments!
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