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Broward Men Sentenced to Prison for Illegal Attempt to Harass, Capture and Kill Protected Manatee

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 18, 2008


Contacts:

U.S. Department of Justice, 305-961-9001
Tom MacKenzie, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 404-679-7291


R. Alexander Acosta, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Eddie McKissick, Resident Agent in Charge, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, Southeast Division, Major Brett Norton, Regional Commander, South Region, Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWCC), announced that Karl F. Kuhn, III, 19, and Charles V. Podesta, Jr., 20, both of Hollywood, Florida, were sentenced on January 17, 2008 by United States Magistrate Judge Ann E. Vitunac in West Palm Beach, Florida, in connection with the illegal “taking” of a West Indian Manatee by harassing, harming, pursuing, wounding, capturing, collecting, or attempting to engage in each of those conducts, in violation of the federal Endangered Species Act (ESA), Title 16 , United States Code, Sections 1538(a)(1)(B) and 1540(b)(1).

Magistrate Judge Vitunac sentenced Podesta to thirty days in federal prison, followed by thirty days of home confinement, subject to electronic monitoring. In addition, Podesta will be required to serve a one year term of supervised release, perform 100 hours of community service, and post to his “MySpace”® web site a public apology for is conduct. Kuhn received a term of fifteen days in prison, a one year term of supervised release, and will also be required to perform 100 hours of community service.

According to the Information to which the defendants pled guilty, statements in Court, and case related documents, on March 13, 2007, Podesta posted a pair of videotape clips on a “MySpace”® website he maintained under the name “Nerezza”. The video clips depicted the defendants, earlier the same day, attempting, and ultimately succeeding in hooking and fighting a manatee in a Fort Lauderdale-area canal. Kuhn was identifiable directly from the video clips, while Podesta was later identified through follow-up by investigators on other postings to the site. It was admitted in Court that the defendants had gone to the site with fishing gear and a digital camera fully intent on hooking a manatee.

The West Indian Manatee (Trichechus manatus), is a species specifically listed as an endangered species of wildlife, pursuant to the list of such species promulgated by the Secretary of the Interior in Title 50, Code of Federal Regulations, Section 17.11(h). The Endangered Species Act makes it a federal offense for anyone, unless otherwise authorized by law, to “take” an endangered species within the jurisdiction of the United States. In order to effectuate the Congressional intent behind the ESA, to provide broad protection to species at risk of extirpation and extinction, “take” is defined in the ESA to mean, “harass, harm, pursue, hunt, shoot, wound, kill, trap, capture, or collect, or to attempt to engage in such conduct.” 16 U.S.C. §1532(19).

According to data collected by the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission Marine Mammal Pathobiology Laboratory, between 1974 and 2006, 26 manatee deaths have been associated with fishing gear.

Mr. Acosta commended the coordinated investigative efforts of the U. S. Fish & Wildlife Service and the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission which brought the matter to a successful conclusion. This case was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Thomas Watts-FitzGerald and Certified Legal Intern Leslie Armendariz.

A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida at www.usdoj.gov/usao/fls. Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Southern District of Florida at www.flsd.uscourts.gov or on http://pacer.flsd.uscourts.gov.

 


For more information about the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, visit our home page at http://www.fws.gov/southeast or http://www.fws.gov/.



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