Suspects in case of viral shark-dragging video plead not guilty

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.

EARLIER: Video of shark being dragged behind boat sparks investigation

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.

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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.

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