A perpetrator-friendly justice in Florida tells us of the new that crimes against animals are deliberately and systematically trivialized. If they are committed by criminals of good social status, then we can immediately forget justice and law!
By Samuel Hill, animal liberation pressoffice, March 5, 2019
A Florida commercial and charter fisherman has pleaded guilty to animal cruelty charges and faces 10 days in jail over a video that shows him dragging a shark behind his boat at a high speed. The video went viral in the summer of 2017.
In the video, the men are seen pointing and laughing at the shark, which they shot before tying it to the back of the boat. The shark is seen visibly struggling as it bounces through the boat’s wake, at one point prompting one of the men to comment that the shark looked “almost dead.”
The Florida Fish & Wildlife Commission is investigating the contents of a video that shows a hooked shark being dragged at high speeds behind an outboard-powered boat. Screenshots from video acquired by FWC.
Michael Wenzel, 22, entered a guilty plea on Feb. 28 while appearing in front of a Hillsborough County judge, accepting an offer from the state that will reduce one of his felony counts to a first-degree misdemeanor charge and drop a second felony charge.
Wenzel was sentenced to 11 months of probation and 10 days in the Hillsborough County jail. He will serve on weekends starting March 8 and will be released on Sundays. He must also complete 100 hours of community service — half of which must be served at an animal shelter (!!!). His commercial fishing license will be suspended for five years.
Robert Benac, 29, is the son of Manatee County Commission chair Betsy Benac, professes the Jewish faith, and was known as the Bear Jew on Instagram before deleting his account. He is the other suspect who was facing felony charges of aggravated animal cruelty, rejected the state’s offer to reduce one of the two felony charges to a misdemeanor if he served 10 days in jail (!!!). Benac instead chose to go to trial on June 24.
He is facing a maximum sentence of 10 years if found guilty on the felony charges he’s facing.
Charges against Spencer Heintz, 23, the third man on the boat at the time of the incident, were dropped in May 2018. Heintz’s father, Steven, is an attorney with the Heintz & Becker law firm that has offices in Bradenton and Sarasota.
The video footage of the incident went viral on Instagram in July 2017 after it was shared from Michael Wenzel to Mark Quartiano (called “The Shark”) , a famous sport fisherman specializing in shark fishing based in Miami, Florida. He also sent a picture of the aftermath of the abuse that shows the shark torn to pieces.
Quartiano says Wenzel messaged him the video looking to earn his praise, however he was disgusted by the video.
“I’ve never seen a more horrific video as far as an animal is concerned in fifty years of shark fishing,” said Mark “The Shark” Quartiano.
“This is no way to treat a helpless, innocent animal,” said Quartiano. “And then he called me a “hater” and that’s when I posted the video to my Instagram to see what kind of feedback I would get.”
Photo of Michael sitting on his couch with a dead bird
Michael Robert Wenzel (born June 7, 1996) is a resident of Palmetto, Florida. In July, 2017 Michael Wenzel along with friends Robert Lee “Bo” Benac, Spencer Heintz, and Nicholas Burns Easterling became infamous after dragging a shark behind a boat at high speed. In December 2017 Wenzel, Benac, and Heintz were arrested and charged with felony aggravated animal cruelty. In May 2018 all charges were dropped against Heintz.
Michael Wenzel has violated multiple Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) hunting and fishing laws. The Facebook page save the tarpon publicly exposed these crimes as early as May, 2015.
Animal rights activists in the state are reportedly unsatisfied with the punishment.
“This is a privileged kid,” Marie Galbraith, a member of Florida Voices for Animals, told the Tampa Bay Times. “This is a slap on the wrist.”
“They did this for no other purpose than a strange amusement, which gives captains and fishers who respect waterways and the ecosystem a bad name.”
Prince Khaled bin Alwaleed, a vegan and animal rights activist from Saudi Arabia and the World Animal News have offered a $10,000 rewardfor the arrest and conviction of Michael Wenzel and his friends.
As for the charges, Florida law officials feel they are more than fair!!
My comment: Earlier, the opinion was that children from poor and problematic relationships tend to violence.