With so many charges for seven out-of-state men accused of spearing 320 lobster illegally in Marathon, Assistant State Attorney Jon Byrne has his hands full.
The arraignment date for the men is set for July 20 at 9 a.m. before Acting Circuit Court Judge Ruth Becker at the Marathon courthouse, but there may be additional felony charges through the state, Byrne said.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission Officers Alex Piekenbrock and Jefferson Carroll stopped a boat July 9 near Vaca Cut in Marathon on which were Leon Reeves, 48, Robinson Reeves, 19, and Jeffrey Honnell, 45, all of Pheonix City, Ala.; Jeffrey Barket Meide, 44, of Rome, Ga.; and David Gilmore, 55, Francis Bartkiewicz, 57, and Kyle Bartkiewicz, 23, all of Eufaula, Ala.
On the boat and at the house the men rented nearby, the officers reportedly found at total of 320 out-of-season wrung spiny lobster tails, 226 of which were undersized, along with stone crab claws and fish.
Byrne said he’s waiting on more reports from the FWC and working with staff at the Key West prosecutor’s office to research additional felony charges on top of the two each man received for having more than 100 undersized lobsters.
They also received 586 misdemeanor counts each for out-of-season lobster and wrung tails; and 14 misdemeanor counts for the lobster, stone crab, and reef fish “not in whole condition.” The driver of the boat, David Gilmore, was handed an additional misdemeanor for a black grouper.
“We take this very seriously and if there are additional counts we will be filing them,” Byrne said. “If I had to guess, we probably won’t see the attorneys or their defendants,” at the arraignment.
That’s assuming the men have hired attorneys. If not, they are required to be at the arraignment.
Byrne said the attorneys will probably demand discovery, which means neither they nor their clients have to be at the arraignment and the State Attorney’s Office has 15 days to provide copies of or access to evidence in its possession to the defense.
“I hope they’re smart enough to understand the seriousness of this right now,” he said of the accused.
Should there be more felony charges for the seven men, they will have to travel back to the Keys for another bond hearing.
Regular lobster season opens Aug. 6, while the two-day lobster mini season is July 26 and July 27. In Monroe County, the bag limit is six lobster per person per day during the two-day mini season and regular season. Stone crabs are legal to harvest from Oct. 15 to May 15.
This article originally appeared on flkeysnews.com
Katie Atkins: 305-440-3219