Animal cruelty charge not dropped in shark dragging case, judge rules

Hillsborough County

The last of the men accused of dragging and shooting a shark asked a Hillsborough County judge to dismiss an animal cruelty charge against him in court Thursday.

After hearing arguments from the defense and state prosecutors, Judge Mark R. Wolfe ruled that the charge will be heard by a jury and the jury must decide if Robert Benac is guilty or innocent of the offense.

Disturbing video of the incident went viral in 2017 and angered animal rights activists across the country.

Benac’s attorney said prosecutors can’t prove much of anything against his client.

Benac is the last person in the group of Tampa Bay area men to not have his case resolved with either having charges dropped or accepting a plea deal. 

RELATED: Sarasota CPA gets death threats over shark dragging video
RELATED: ‘Siesta Key’ star says he’s disgusted by shark dragging video
RELATED: Shark-dragging suspect accepts plea deal

Benac’s attorney argued the charges should be dismissed because he lawfully caught the shark by hook-and-line. 

“My client did not know Mr. [Michael] Wenzel was going to shoot the shark until it was occurring,” attorney Justin Petredis said after the hearing.

Petredis also claim there’s no evidence showing Benac helped with the shooting.

RELATED: Judge drops charges against 1 shark dragging suspect 
GRAPHIC VIDEO WARNING: 2nd shark abuse video being investigated by FWC
RELATED:  ‘Siesta Key’ premiere parties cancelled amid shark dragging controversy 

Benac could spend a decade behind bars if found guilty on felony animal cruelty charges, however, Petredis said that’s highly unlikely.

Petredis also hopes the jury will see the entire video of the incident and not short parts of it.

“The videos are clips.  And there’s a lot not on the clips and the state needs to fill in the gaps, and if they can’t fill in the gaps, and explain, obviously they haven’t met their burden,” he said.

The case is expected to go before a jury on June 24, Judge Wolfe said Thursday.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

April 24 2021 08:00 am

Trending Stories

get the app

News App

Weather App

Don't Miss

More Don't Miss