Suspects in case of viral shark-dragging video plead not guilty

Robert Lee Benac 28 Spencer Heintz 23 and Michael Wenzel 21

Three Manatee County men who face felony animal cruelty charges in connection with an infamous shark dragging video entered not guilty pleas in a Tampa courtroom Wednesday morning. The attorneys told News Channel 8 their clients maintain their innocence.

The horrifying video made its rounds online past year, and it shows the men laughing as they drag the helpless animal behind them at high speeds causing it to bounce on the water.

"Look it's already nearly dead", said one man while pointing and laughing at the shark. Wenzel's Instagram account also showed him allegedly manhandling pelicans, catching illegal tarpon, and in one photo, holding a dead dog with a rope around its neck and insinuating that it will soon be fed to sharks.

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It took four months for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to investigate and bring charges.

The disturbing video prompted outrage on social media and demands for the arrests of the men in the video.

One misdemeanor count of Illegal Method of Take - Shark (Second-degree misdemeanor). They are all out of custody after posting bond, and their depositions are scheduled for March 6.

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