ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - Two men who pleaded guilty to harassing a mother manatee and her calf in Brevard County were fined and sentenced to probation and community service in Orlando federal court Wednesday.
The video went viral and sparked public outrage.
Officials said Taylor Martin jumped on a manatee in Cocoa Beach last year. A 52-second video of Taylor was posted on YouTube.
According to investigators, Seth Stephenson is seen in the video using a hose to spray water at the manatee.
Both were caught by Florida Fish and Wildlife officials after bragging about the incident on Facebook, where in one post, Martin called himself, “Taylor the Manatee Slayer.”
“The U.S. government and the State of Florida won’t tolerate our endangered species being harmed, killed, harassed, or otherwise illegally taken,” said Andrew Alloise with the Fish and Wildlife Service.
Court documents show the men knew it was illegal to harass the protected animals.
Channel 9 was in the courtroom as the two men were sentenced Wednesday.
Stephenson would not say what he thought of the judge’s sentence, and Martin covered his face while leaving the federal courthouse.
The two faced up to a year in federal prison, but a judge said they escaped jail time because neither manatee appeared to be injured.
“There’s no getting around it, it was stupid. But I think he’s learned from it, and it’s certain nothing remotely like it will happen again,” said Martin’s attorney, Greg Crutchfield.
Each man received two years' probation and will be required to do 175 hours of community service.
In addition Martin was fined $3,000 while Stephenson was fined $2,000.
The two men will also be required to submit statements of apology to a probation officer who will then approve them for posting on each man's Facebook page.
The judge said had the manatees been injured, Martin and Stephenson would be spending a year in jail.
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