TAMPA (CBSMiami) – Three Florida men have pleaded not guilty to charges linked to a video showing a shark being dragged behind a speeding boat and then posting the video on social media.
Michael Wenzel, 21, Spencer Heintz, 23, and Robert Lee Benac, 28, each face two felony counts of aggravated animal cruelty. Wenzel and Benac also face a misdemeanor count of illegal method of taking a shark.
In a Tampa Bay Times report, none of the men appeared in this week’s hearing. Their lawyers entered the not guilty pleas on their behalf.
The video went viral in late July after a Miami sport fisherman criticized it on social media.
The video shows the shark, which is tied up with a rope, being dragging behind a boat traveling at high speed in Hillsborough County as three men watch and laugh.
Investigators with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission determined the dragging took place June 26 in state waters off Egmont Key.
Just days after the video went viral, Gov. Rick Scott asked if state law needed to be changed to better protect wildlife. He wrote a letter to the FWC saying he wants to make sure the state’s fishing regulations and statutes strictly prohibited “such inhumane acts.”