Tag Archives: shark

10-Year Anniversary for my Crimcourts Blog

10 years ago I posted my first blog on here. 1,322 posts later we’re still going strong. Not as strong as I used to- I post much less frequently nowadays between keeping busy with the job and growing kids that have gotten involved in all kinds of activity. Thanks to everyone that has sent me post ideas over the years, I wish I could have written a post for all of them. WordPress tells me I’ve had over 285,000 page views and over 180,000 unique visitors, which is kind of crazy.

I thought the anniversary might be a good time for a little trip down memory lane.

My all time most viewed post was a legal update: “”Important Changes to Florida’s DUI Laws: Legistlative Update 2013

Some of the more popular subjects over the years were Zimmerman, Amanda Knox, NFL Cheerleaders, and Ashley Toye (of the Cash Feenz cases). Also, the Sievers case got a lot of attention, though it didn’t seem to have the national appeal that drove up numbers on the others.

One of my favorite subjects was the shark trial, where a man claimed self-defense for taking a shark: “The Shark Trial Recap

Self-defense has been one of the more interesting repeat topics we’ve discussed on crimcourts, probably in part due to timing. I started writing this not too long after the Stand Your Ground Law has been enacted, and the Florida courts have been a trying ground for that policy. Also, being Florida, we’ve seen self-defense claimed for Bears, the aforementioned shark, and even an iguana.

Sometimes I like to think it would be fun to do videos, but I really don’t have the time. I don’t have as much time as I’d like to spend on the blog, as it has been fun, but I’ll keep posting whenever I can find time so follow me here and on Twitter.

Man Claims Self-Defense in Killing Iguana (Yes, It’s in Florida)

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.

PJ Nilaja Patterson

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.

Also, it gives me another excuse to post Jimbo:

Uncle “He’s comin’ right for us!” Jimbo

Von Miller will not be Charged for the Hammerhead He Caught

Von Miller with a Great Hammerhead, via Instagram

Former SuperBowl MVP Von Miller got in some hot water a while back for a photo he posted on social media of a large, bloodied great hammerhead he had caught. It was recently revealed that the owner of the boat was charged with an infraction for failing to have the proper permit, and for failing to use best practices in releasing the animal. Sounds like they went with a non-criminal infraction by NOAA, as opposed to a misdemeanor under state law. That means the violation is more like a speeding ticket, instead of criminal, albeit an expensive one, as they carry a $2000 penalty. I was right when I speculated last year that it was the captain’s responsibility for the way the animal was caught and released.

FWC looking into Shark Fishing by 2015 Super Bowl MVP Von Miller

von miller shark

Von Miller, via Instagram

Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller caught a hammerhead shark while fishing in Florida, and posted pictures on social media. Miller is well known, not only for being Super Bowl MVP, but he has also done a lot of commercials and even appeared on Dancing with the Stars. Now he’s in hot water as there may be an investigation since hammerheads are a protected species. The video, embedded in the TMZ article, shows that the shark was released alive, but it also shows the shark was bleeding on the boat, and distressed when returned to the water.


I don’t think Miller is in the wrong here, as he has video showing the shark’s release. FWC will still conduct an investigation, but it won’t need to be too intensive. It appears he is on a fishing charter. It’s incumbent on the captain to ensure that the animals are treated humanely by everyone on board, and returned safely. Miller could be facing misdemeanor criminal charges. I don’t see any charges for Viller, and hopefully, the shark was ok.

via TMZ:



Live Shark in a Pool!

blacktip sharkAuthorities were called out to an apartment complex in Hypoluxo, Florida because someone found a live shark swimming around in a pool. A five-foot blacktip was swimming around in the common pool for the apartments.

When I first read the headline, I thought it would be something due to the flooding from the major storms that moved across Florida on Friday, but it sounds more likely to be the work of some young pranksters. There’s probably a crime here, but I’m not sure what it would be, other than trespassing if they didn’t live in the apartments. Alas, it’s kind of funny, too…

Attorney Charged for Punching His Own Client in Courthouse

Joseph Lopez, via Twitter

Joseph Lopez, via Twitter

Prominent Chicago defense attorney Joseph “The Shark” Lopez has been charged with battery for punching his client. Apparently he and the now-former client got in an altercation in a holding cell at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse. Lopez is suggesting that he was acting in self-defense, but prosecutors apparently felt the battery charge, a misdemeanor, was warranted.

I wonder who his lawyer is going to be.

Truck Full of Sharks Crashes

According to the News 13 story, they were Sandbar Sharks (or brown sharks), which are common. That begs the question for me, why did local law enforcement prosecute somebody for catching one of them, but it’s no problem for 5 of them to be cruising down the highway?

And it’s been a while since we’ve had a reason to say this, but thanks to Sea World for putting up the stranded sharks! #onlyinflorida Also, in case you didn’t see it, just a few days ago another Florida Man tried to sell a live shark outside a supermarket. FWC decided to let him off with a warning (the shark was released).

News 13 image of shark rescue

Fish Attack Caught on Video #florida #saltlife

This goliath grouper decided to go after a spear fisher’s catch, and didn’t care that the diver from Winter Park, FL, wasn’t about to give it up. I’m sharing it, because it reminds me of a case we covered here on Crimcourts, where a Lee County man was charged with illegally harvesting a sandbar shark. The man claimed self-defense, that the shark came at him over the fish he has speared. FWC officers said they found the diver, Steven Moriconi, cutting the shark open when they appraoched. Moroconi countered that he was helping the shark by releasing babies in its belly. Mr. Moriconi was ultimately found guilty of unlawful harvest of the shark, but this video illustrates how an aggressive fish, especially one with more teeth, could cause a diver to be afraid of death or serious bodily injury.

How the Shark was Jumped: the Shark Trial Recap

We have been following the shark trial here on Crimcourts this week. It got picked up by some local media outlets, but you heard about it here, first. The case went to trial yesterday, and Steven Moriconi was found guilty of 4 fishing violations: 3 related to taking the shark, and an additional charge for obstruction for throwing fish overboard. I was only able to catch snippets of the trial, but it was exciting stuff.

According FWC officers, they approached a boat with Mr. Moriconi and 2 of his friends. As they pulled up, there was a large shark tied up at the boat, and Mr. Moriconi was slitting open its belly. Officers alleged that he was gutting it, which is apparently necessary to protect shark meat. They found some snappers in the water which, coupled with the snappers on the boat, put Mr. Moriconi over his bag limit. He was charged with harvesting a protected shark (a Sandbar Shark), fishing for the shark with a powerhead (bangstick), and for fishing for the shark with something other than line and tackle.

Sandbar Shark

Sandbar Shark

Mr. Moriconi took the stand in his defense, and argued that he had not been harvesting the shark. NBC carried snippets of his testimony. According to his testimony, he had been spear fishing on a dive, when the shark started circling. He says he sent the fish on his line to the surface, but the shark continued to close in. He testified that he was in fear for his safety, as the shark appeared aggressive. He was on the bottom when the shark turned and came directly at him. His spear had been fired, but his powerhead was affixed to his gun, and when the shark got near enough, he struck its head, discharging the powerhead bullet. Were these statements true, he would be justified in using force to defend himself from the perceived threat.

He testified that after he had surfaced, the other men on the boat had gaffed the dying shark. He says that they determined that the shark was pregnant, and that they slit the belly open to release the babies, and they were able to save several of them, which swam off. In fact, the FWC shark expert who performed the necropsy (sharkropsy?) testified confirmed that the shark’s organs were still in the carcass. He also testified that he had a negative history with some of the FWC officers involved, and that they were rude and aggressive with him from the moment they made contact.

The judge was not persuaded by Mr. Moriconi’s testimony, and found him guilty as charged. While Mr. Moriconi’s testimony occasionally pushed the limits of credulity, especially the miraculous save of several shark pups, I thought he had a strong chance of success as his testimony was unrebutted. Obviously nobody else was present on the bottom of the ocean to contradict his testimony, and dead sharks tell no tales. That left his testimony unrebutted, and even if the court was skeptical of his testimony, there was a dearth of evidence to contradict it. The only thing approaching contradiction, was an alleged statement by Mr Moriconi that he had a friend he was catching the shark for. Moriconi countered that he made the friend statement later, and only in speculation of what they’d do with the carcass.

If his story was believed, or was reliable enough to case a reasonable doubt, he would have been not guilty of the charges. Often, the truth lies somewhere between the two sides of a story. For instance, perhaps he did kill the shark in self-defense, but later decided to keep it. That would be a defense to the charge of fishing with a powerhead, but not for the harvesting of the animal. Mr. Moriconi has some interesting appellate issues, should he choose to appeal the conviction. He might not file the appeal, since he got probation, and an appeal would be costly. In addition to the lack of evidence contradicting his story, there are significant jurisdictional issues to ask for reconsideration. The issues were raised at trial, but Moriconi’s lawyer was unsuccessful.

What stands out for me is the issue of double jeopardy. Mr. Moriconi got three separate convictions for the taking of one shark. While the elements are different, the criminal action- harvesting the shark- is essentially the same and he’s therefore being punished three times for the same action. One of those charges probably subsumes the others. If an appeal is filed, Crimcourts will continue to follow the case. And I leave you once again with Uncle Jimbo… “It’s coming right for us!!!”

Uncle Jimbo - Defending Himself

Uncle Jimbo – Defending Himself

Man Guilty in Shark Killing Case

According to NBC-2, the judge has just found a man guilty of four fishing violations related to his killing of a Sandbar Shark last year. At trial in Fort Myers today, the man claimed he killed the shark in self-defense. Three of the counts were related to taking the shark, the other count was an obstruction count for throwing fish overboard. I don’t have time to get into all the details, but I wanted to share the verdict, which I just saw on the news. The man was sentenced to 6 months of probation for the charges, with fines, fees and probably substantial costs to be paid.

Previously: https://crimcourts.wordpress.com/2013/04/02/the-shark-trial-looks-like-a-go-tomorrow/