Crime

New video surfaces in shark dragging case. It could mean trouble for suspect awaiting trial

At least one legal expert believes Robert Benac will regret not taking a plea deal offer in the shark-dragging case that spawned social media outrage in the summer of 2017.

Defense attorney Anthony Rickman, who is not involved the case, reviewed new video obtained by Fox 13 in Tampa, telling the news station, “A picture speaks a thousand words. This one speaks one: Guilty,” Rickman said.

Benac, son of Manatee County Commissioner Betsy Benac, is the only original suspect in the shark-dragging incident who has not had their case resolved.

Michael Wenzel pleaded guilty in a Hillsborough County courtroom in February to a misdemeanor charge that allowed him to serve only 10 days in jail served on weekends. Courtroom video shows Wenzel smiling during the proceedings.

Wenzel also received 11 months probation and 100 hours of community service. Charges against Spencer Heintz, the third suspect in the case, were dropped earlier this year.

The new video obtained by Fox 13 shows Wenzel shooting the shark numerous times while those on the boat, including Benac, cheered him on to keep shooting.

“What’s disturbing is the reaction of that animal thrashing in pain, jumping up and down the first time it’s shot,” Rickman said.

Benac declined to take a plea deal and opted for trial, which is scheduled to begin in September. His defense continues to claim the shark was dead prior being dragged across the water at high speeds, but prosecutors intend to show the jury that the shark was dragged before it was shot.

Benac faces up to 10 years in prison if convicted.

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