Crime

Burglary charge against Mosquito Control official dropped. He was trying to help derelict boat

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Witnessing a crime and reporting it can be just as frightening as being the victim of a crime. Here’s what you should do if you witness illegal activity.

A burglary charge has been dropped against a Manatee County Mosquito Control official after an incident involving a derelict boat last month. He was just trying to be a good Samaritan and save the beached sailboat’s engine that was flooded, he said.

Mosquito district assistant director Christopher Lesser was arrested on Nov. 11 and charged with burglary of an unoccupied conveyance. A witness had reported seeing him take a battery from a beached sailboat on the shore of DeSoto National Memorial.

According to a probable cause affidavit, a witness reported seeing Lesser take the battery from a sailboat near DeSoto and was taking it to his own boat. When confronted, Lesser returned the battery but the next thing he knew deputies were called out and he was being arrested.

On Wednesday, the charge was dropped when the state attorney’s office declined to file formal charges.

“I thought I was just being a good Samaritan,” Lesser said.

The sailboat had been beached for weeks in the cove off the Manatee River along the DeSoto National Memorial. It was a sight that couldn’t be missed by those who frequent that side of the national park.

Lesser remembers first seeing the sailboat had run aground during the first week of September in the days after Tropical Storm Gordon passed off of Florida’s Southwest coast.

“We had seen it over the course of time. We are out there all the time,” Lesser said. “On Nov. 11, I was with my son and decided to take a look at it. It was an absolute wreck.”

Many times Lesser said he had witnessed random people exploring the derelict boat and when he took a look himself, he realized that water was getting into the engine. He discovered that the boat’s pump wasn’t working because the battery was dead, so he thought he could help by charging the battery on his own boat.

“That’s when all hell broke loss,” Lesser said .

Lesser, 48, found himself in what he describes as an embarrassing nightmare. For three and half weeks he could not sleep while the case was pending.

Mosquito Control Director Mark Latham supported Lesser, who he considers a friend not, just an employee, throughout the ordeal.

“The whole thing was just a misunderstanding,” Latham said.

You can follow Jessica De Leon on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.
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