Assistant United States Attorney Shawn P. Napier recommends that if Historic City News readers are going to harass an endangered species of Florida wildlife, not to be stupid enough to post a video of yourself committing the crime on your facebook; unless you are ready to appear in Federal Court.
Thursday, US Magistrate Judge Gregory J. Kelly found 22-year-old Taylor Blake Martin and 22-year-old Seth Andrew Stephenson guilty of taking or harassing an endangered species and now each is facing a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a $50,000 fine.
Both young men entered guilty pleas after they were confronted with a video obtained by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service that was posted on Facebook revealing Stephenson luring an adult manatee and a calf to a boat dock, where Martin would jump on top of the endangered animals; “cannonballing” them.
The video shows Martin landing on the back of the adult manatee as the manatees attempt to swim away. Stephenson attempts to use a water hose to lure the manatees back as the video ends.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission assisted the United States Fish and Wildlife Service in this investigation.
Special Agent in Charge of the Southeast Region of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service Office of Law Enforcement, Luis Santiago, told the court that several people commented on the facebook video, including a response from Martin, who calls himself “Tayla the Manatee Slaya”. Martin wrote that he was “ready to cannonball every manatee living”.
“This case demonstrates our resolve to address the illegal harassment of Manatees,” Santiago told reporters. “That is especially true of more serious cases that result in the death or injury of Florida’s endangered manatees.”