The case of seven men charged in early July with illegally spearing hundreds of lobster and harvesting stone crabs out of season could carry on for a year, if not more.
Arraignment for the men, six from Alabama and one from Georgia, was delayed by two weeks and is now set for Thursday, but more delays are almost certain, according to Assistant State Attorney Jon Byrne.
“I understand, to the general public, sometimes it makes no sense,” he said.
Marathon attorney William Heffernan, representing all seven men, filed a notice of appearance, meaning he and his clients do not need to be at the arraignment Thursday as they wait for discovery.
Discovery includes all evidence, possible depositions from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers who arrested the seven men and video evidence from the body cameras worn by officers during the July 9 arrest.
“Because of the nature of the case and seriousness, Mr. Heffernan will probably set depositions and he has the right to depose any state witnesses. That’s where you get your delays,” Byrne said.
Accused are Leon Reeves, 48, Robinson Reeves, 19, and Jeffrey Honnell, 45, all of Pheonix City, Ala.; Jeffrey Barket Meide, 44, of Rome, Ga.; and David Gilmore, 55, Francis Bartkiewicz, 57, and Kyle Bartkiewicz, 23, all of Eufaula, Ala.. Each man was handed 586 misdemeanor counts for having out-of-season lobster and wrung tails; 14 misdemeanor counts for the lobster, stone crab, and reef fish “not in whole condition;” and two felonies for having more than 100 undersized lobster. The driver of the boat, David Gilmore, was handed an additional misdemeanor for a black grouper.
On the boat and at the house the men rented nearby, the officers reportedly found a total of 320 out-of-season wrung spiny lobster tails, 226 of which were undersized, along with the stone crab claws and fish.
After Thursday, there will most likely be a pretrial conference in September, Byrne said, unless it gets pushed to October.
The arraignment is set for 1:30 p.m. before Acting Circuit Court Judge Ruth Becker at the Marathon courthouse. There may be additional felony charges through the state, Byrne said.
Heffernan could not be reached for comment by press time.
Katie Atkins: 305-440-3219