The Sex on the Beach trial that started last week in Bradenton, and provided wildly entertaining salacious testimony in the Manatee County Courtroom, wrapped up Monday. The case had enough media attention that it featured the elected State Attorney, Ed Brodsky, personally representing the State in the prosecution. After closing arguments, the jury did not need much deliberation, returning with a guilty verdict after only about 15 minutes.
Defendants Jose Cabellero, 40, and Elissa Alvarez, 20, are facing up to 15 years in prison, each, for the second degree sex-offense felony of lewd exhibition in the presence of a minor. The situation looks especially dire for Mr. Caballero, who apparently qualifies as a Prison Releasee Reoffender. He qualifies because he was released within the last 3 years for a cocaine trafficking sentence. The PRR statute is particularly onerous, as it requires the judge to sentence him to the maximum, to be served day for day (no time off for good behavior). The statute under which he is charged essentially treats him the same as someone who actually molests a child, even though there was no testimony of any actual danger to the child, merely that the child was present: it’s the same statutory section as child molestation.
Ms. Alvarez is in a substantially better position. While she’s facing up to 15 years in prison as a sex offender, she probably does not score out to mandatory incarceration (it appears she has no prior record). Further, she is young enough to potentially qualify as a youthful offender [Y.O.], which gives the court even greater latitude in sentencing. A Y.O. sentence may be particularly appropriate give her youth, lack of history, and the fact that she may have been influenced by her older co-defendant.
If you haven’t yet, check back at the previous coverage, particularly the full story with video and pictures, as well as the live tweeting by the Bradenton Herald’s incomparable @KateIrby. Also, there are clips of the incident available online. There’s the real irony: these two are facing felonies and prison time for doing something that can be freely shared on the internet. While it may have been offensive (and I’m not advocating exposing children to such adult behavior), the video was shown over and over again during trial, and nobody was harmed. Caballero may get 15 years, and we’re going to pay for it. PRR sentences were created to protect society from the most dangerous offenders… and he ain’t it.
Also, it costs $18,000 per year on average to house an inmate in Florida. While he’s going to regret his indiscretion for 15 years, the taxpayers of Florida foot the bill… all $270,000.