Manatee Co. men accused in disturbing viral shark video plead not guilty

Shark dragging suspects (left to right) Spencer Heintz, Robert Lee Benac and Michael Wenzel.

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — Three Manatee County men facing charges in connection with an infamous shark-dragging video have pleaded not guilty.

The three suspects did not appear in court Wednesday morning for their arraignment, their attorneys entered the not guilty plea for them. The attorneys told News Channel 8 their clients maintain their innocence.

The charges are the result of a 4-month-long investigation into the video which shows a shark being dragged behind a boat at high speed.

The video shows three men on the boat watching and laughing as the shark, which is on a rope, violently bobs up and down in the water as it is dragged.

“Look it’s already almost dead,” said one man while pointing and laughing at the shark.

The disturbing video prompted outrage on social media and demands for the arrests of the men in the video.

The suspects and their charges are as follows:

Michael Wenzel, 21, of Palmetto

  • Two felony counts of Aggravated Animal Cruelty (Third-degree felony).
  • One misdemeanor count of Illegal Method of Take – Shark (Second-degree misdemeanor).

Robert Lee Benac, 28, of Bradenton

  • Two felony counts of Aggravated Animal Cruelty (Third-degree felony).
  • One misdemeanor count of Illegal Method of Take – Shark (Second-degree misdemeanor).

Spencer Heintz, 23, of Palmetto

  • Two felony counts of Aggravated Animal Cruelty (Third-degree felony).

Wenzel, Benac and Heintz are all out of jail on bond. Their dispositions are set for March 6.

RELATED COVERAGE:

 

WFLA.com provides commenting to allow for constructive discussion on the stories we cover. In order to comment here, you acknowledge you have read and agreed to our Terms of Service. Commenters who violate these terms, including use of vulgar language or racial slurs, will be banned. Please be respectful of the opinions of others and keep the conversation on topic and civil. If you see an inappropriate comment, please flag it for our moderators to review.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s