Cocoa Beach, FL(Florida Today) Two men pleaded guilty in federal court in Orlando on Thursday to harassing an endangered species, in a March 2012 incident in which one of the men took a "cannonball" dive from a Cocoa Beach dock onto a manatee and her calf, and a video of the incident was later posted on Facebook.
Seth Andrew Stephenson, 22, of Rockledge, and Taylor Blake Martin, 22, of Alabama, pleaded guilty before U.S. Magistrate Judge Gregory J. Kelly.
Each man faces a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a $50,000 fine. A sentencing date has yet to be scheduled, according to a U.S. Department of Justice press release.
According to court documents, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service learned of a video posted on Facebook that showed Stephenson luring two manatees to a dock with a water hose, and Martin jumping off a boat dock, "cannonballing" onto the manatee and calf, according to the release.
The video shows Martin landing on the back of the adult manatee as the manatees swim away. Stephenson then uses the hose to try and lure the manatees back.
In response to a post on Facebook criticizing Martin's actions, Martin responded, "hahaha...in my debue [sic] as tayla the manatee slaya...im f---- ready to cannonball on every manatee living yewwww."
"This case demonstrates our resolve to address the illegal harassment of manatees, as well as the enforcement of speed zones, and other more serious forms of take which result in the death or injury of Florida's endangered manatees," said Special Agent in Charge Luis Santiago, of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.
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