Two young men who admitted capturing and hurting three Key deer last July will each serve six months in the county jail on top of federal sentences that were already handed down before they appeared in state court this week.
One buck, who was found bloody with an injured hoof by officers, later had to be euthanized due to his injuries. The other two deer, both does, scampered off into the woods once they were freed, having left feces in the car they had been folded into.
Erik Damas Acosta, 19, has already started serving one year in federal prison for the crimes, which included felony cruelty of animals and wounding an endangered species.
Tumani Younge, 23, got only probation for his role in hog-tying and stuffing the three deer into Acosta’s car the night of July 2, 2017.
But on Friday, Judge Mark Jones gave him exactly what he gave Acosta the night before: Six months in jail, while withholding adjudication, which means neither will go down as a six-time state felon.
Younge dropped to his knees Friday when he realized he would start serving his six months that day, appearing to faint and falling into the arms of two deputies who helped him sit down in a chair.
“Who knows what you guys were thinking,” Jones told Younge before sentencing him. “It doesn’t make sense.”
Acosta appeared tearful, mouthing kisses to his family which filled an entire row in the Monroe County courtroom on Thursday evening. Younge, however, maintained his original story that he it was all Acosta’s idea and that he only helped him tie up one deer because he feared Acosta would leave him stranded had he not.
“I aided him in fear I wouold become a vicitm myself,” said Younge, who added he had given blood and had been drinking alcohol when Acosta pulled over to the side of the road near mile marker 30 on Big Pine Key, where he lured the deer with bread before hog-tying each.
Acosta and Younge met while working at a Taco Bell on the mainland.
“I wish I never got in the car with him,” said Younge, who said he was only taking a much-needed vacation with Acosta to the Keys after having been homeless for awhile with his mother.
Prosecutors rejected Younge’s story that he had been sleeping on and off and had little to do with the crime and argued he wasn’t as remorseful as Acosta about hurting the already endangered and fragile Key deer, which only exist in the Florida Keys, largely on Big Pine Key.
“The amount of force needed to do this was not slight,” said Assistant State Attorney Colleen Dunne. “It’s implausible for [Acosta] to have done this by himself.”
Younge decided to assist in the deed, Dunne said. Younge also had Key deer blood on his shirt, as confirmed by DNA testing done by Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers, not Acosta.
Gwen Filosa: @KeyWestGwen