PJ Nilaja Patterson claims the encounter he had with an iguana was self-defense, claiming the 3-foot green iguana was the aggressor and that he was acting in self-defense when he killed the creature. A laceration on his arm from a bite required 22 staples to close up. Prosecutors counter that a surveillance video of the incident shows that Patterson tormented the animal, and then went into a violent rage when it bit him while defending itself. The iguana had to be put down due to the injuries suffered in the confrontation.
Patterson claimed immunity from prosecution under Florida’s Stand Your Ground law, that allows the use of force when defending oneself. A judge has denied the motion, however, Patterson still has a right to argue justifiable use of force at trial.
Green Iguanas are invasive creatures, and it is permitted to kill them under Florida law, but it must be done humanely. It’s not the first time we’ve covered the inhumane killing of an iguana that led to felony animal cruelty charges. The state has cleared it’s initial burden to allow the case to go forward, but to convict him, they will have to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he did not have a reasonable fear, or that the level of force use was not justified.
It’s not the first time we’ve seen self-defense argued for the killing of an animal. In 2013, a man accused of killing a protected sandbar shark testified at trial in Fort Myers that he killed the animal in self-defense. The court rejected that claim and he was convicted at a bench trial. A man in Bonita Springs claimed self-defense (and defense of property) when he killed a bear that entered his property back in 2009. He argued that Stand Your Ground also granted him immunity, and the state argued that Stand Your Ground only applies to humans. The judge denied his motion, and he ended up agreeing to plead guilty to killing a protected species and do probation in lieu of a trial. I am not aware of any case law that goes as far to say that Stand Your Ground does not apply to animals, and the self-defense statute reads, “[a] person is justified in using or threatening to use deadly force if he or she reasonably believes that using or threatening to use such force is necessary to prevent imminent death or great bodily harm to himself or herself or another”. Fla. Stat. Sec. 776.012(2)- it does not say anything that would limit it to defending yourself (or others) against a person instead of an animal. (Law enforcement officers kill aggressive pets with some frequency, for instance, which is lawful.)
The hurdle for Mr. Patterson is that the iguana was only three feet, and they are docile vegetarians. They run away from people. If the video shows him provoking the animal, he will be unlikely to garner much sympathy from the jury, despite his injury. People don’t like it when animals die: He may explore a plea deal, but he’s facing a felony for animal cruelty.
This video of an Alligator being carried into a Key Like Pie store, in addition to being the most Florida thing ever, when viral when it was shared a few months ago. Sweetie is a rescue Gator that lives at Jungle Adventures park… when she’s not visiting schools or hanging out at the Key Like Pie store. You can read more about the background of “Sweetie” the Alligator in this story by Craig Pittman.
I didn’t know this, but apparently the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office has a small animal farm at their facility on Stock Key in the Florida Keys, where about 150 animals reside. Inmates at the adjacent jail facility can get details at the zoo, helping to care for the animals, though apparently feeding the reptiles is not one of the inmate duties. The animal farm has become an attraction on the island, where it is open for free to the public twice per month and for special occasions and is popular with local families.
Inmate Jason Gibson was an inmate at the jail, and landed a detail working at the animal farm. That is, he worked there until he tossed an iguana named “Mojo” into the gator enclosure, where an alligator killed it. It was particularly distressing for those who worked at the farm, as Mojo had been a resident there for at least 13 years, and was considered more of a pet. The inmates who spoke to police were reportedly heartbroken. Gibson admitted to the deed, as well as another iguana a few weeks earlier. Gibson is facing two felony animal cruelty charges, in addition to the vehicular theft charge that landed him in custody in the first place. Crimcourts continues to keep you up date on all alligator related criminal law!
Two Fort Myers men are charged in a turtle trafficking ring that may have netted tens of thousands of dollars. It’s the largest turtle theft bust in Florida history, and the turtles recovered had a black market value of $200,000. FWC alleges that Michael Clemons and Michael Boesenberg were selling wild-caught turtles to overseas interests for money and sometimes for marijuana.
Some of the rescued turtles
It’s important to police wildlife violations to protect the fauna of Florida. FWC says Lee County was hardest hit, and that local turtle populations may be substantially affected. The good news is that more than 600 turtles were rescued and returned to the wild.
Is that a gator in your pants, or are you just happy to see me?
A couple in Charlotte County were pulled over when they failed to come to a complete stop at a stop sign in the wee hours of the morning. The deputy gave them a warning for the sign and asked where they were coming from. They told him they’d been collecting frogs and snakes. The deputy then asked them if he could see what they caught, to make sure they were complying with the rules. The woman opened a backpack to reveal 42 small turtles; one softshell and the rest three-striped mud turtles. The deputy then asked her if she had anything else, and she pulled a foot long alligator out of her yoga pants!
We introduced you to Brandon Hatfield a few months ago– the croc-wearing guy who jumped into a crocodile pit at a St. Augustine alligator park, and got bitten, was arrested after he was found almost-naked in a lady’s front yard. He got sentenced last week, and he got dinged pretty good. Hatfield was sentenced to a year in jail, followed by 2 years of community control (similar to house arrest), in addition to being ordered to pay over $5000 in restitution for the damage he caused. He was charged with trespass and criminal mischief for the alligator park escapade, but he was already on probation for something else, which is probably why he got so much time in jail.
No animals were injured, but Hatfield nearly lost his foot after the incident. Apparently the whole escapade was due to his drug use, so hopefully this will serve as a wake-up call and he will get help for his substance-abuse issues. Court image via Beth Rousseau:
As the leading authority on Alligator related laws, I have to say this is something that I would not have thought needed explanation. It’s not really an alligator-specific law… it’s pretty much unlawful anywhere to restrain someone through the threat of harm. This week a Texas man plead guilty to one count of unlawful restraint after he allegedly made a ransom claim for $800 in an alleged kidnapping in Connecticut. When the victim contacted his aunt, he asked for the money to be set free, then sent a proof of life photo: which featured the victim lying in a bathtub, with a 3-foot alligator sitting on top of him.
Police traced the ransom call to a hotel room, and there they found the defendant’s girlfriend and the aforementioned crocodilian. However, the Defendant and alleged victim were nowhere to be found at that time. Police ended up charging Garcia with kidnapping, larceny by extortion, and unlawful restraint.
However, the facts of the case started showing flaws. “Our investigation developed information that contradicted the original statement of facts,” Garcia’s lawyer, Senior Assistant Public Defender Jonathan Demirjian, told the judge. For instance, after the ransom call… the phone was used to order some Chinese food. Prosecutors eventually agreed to let Garcia plea to the lesser count of unlawful restraint. He will be sentenced in March. Still, let this be a reminder, don’t threaten people with alligators.
It’s not exactly clear what happened to his shirt, but the video shows he had removed it and jumped in the crocodile enclosure at the St. Augustine Alligator Farm. Employees a the Farm first became concerned when they found the Crocs the next morning. At first, they thought it was a joke, until they saw the blood. When they called police, the cops already had an idea of who had been bitten. Police had located Brandon Hatfield around 7 am when they got a call that a man in boxers was crawling through a woman’s yard,a nd hiding in the bushes. Hatfield has been charged with burglary, criminal mischief, and a violation of probation. He was apparently bitten on the leg, but was able to escape the crocodile enclosure. On the other side of the fence is the main alligator lagoon, which contains hundreds of full grown gators (It looks like the croc enclosure has juveniles– lucky for Hatfield).