Two South Florida men who have already received sentences in federal court for poaching federally protected Key deer last year, hog-tying three of them and stuffing them in their car, will plead guilty to the outstanding state charges next week, prosecutors said.
Monroe County Circuit Court Judge Mark Jones will have the final say on the case of Erik Damas Acosta, 19, of Miami Gardens, and Tumani Anthony Younge, 23, of Broward County, who both admitted in U.S. District Court last year to capturing the deer, one saying he only wanted to take pictures of the animals.
Key deer stand only around 3 feet tall and are found only in the Lower Keys, mostly on Big Pine Key. The National Key Deer Refuge estimates there are between 800 and 1,200 in the herd.
Acosta, who in October was sentenced to one year in prison for the deer attack, is scheduled to appear for a change-of-plea hearing Thursday at the Monroe County Courthouse, 302 Fleming St., at 4 p.m. while Younge, who the federal judge gave only supervised release, is set for the same hearing at 9 a.m. Friday, said Assistant State Attorney Colleen Dunne.
Back in July, the two were stopped on Little Torch Key while heading north on U. S. 1 when a Monroe County Sheriff’s deputy spotted the black Hyundai Sonata they were driving had a broken tail light.
It didn’t take the officer long to discover two does in the backseat, their feet tied together with twine and a contorted full-grown buck in the trunk, also tied up. The buck was bleeding. One of the endangered deer had to be euthanized days later due to a broken leg.
The deputy said Acosta told him the two lured the deer with pieces of bread, then grabbed them and tied them. Acosta said he only wanted to take pictures of the small deer. Younge told a judge in August that he was asleep in the car when the deer were captured.
U.S. District Court Judge Jose E. Martinez handed down the federal sentences to Acosta who received 12 months in prison plus two years of supervised release after he gets out; and Younge, who received 180 days of home confinement and two years of supervised release. Both also have to do 200 hours of community service.
Gwen Filosa: @KeyWestGwen