PLANTATION KEY, August 1, 2019 – A Homestead man’s weekend plans are set for the foreseeable future.
Javier Morales, 42, was sentenced July 29 to 60 days in the Monroe County Detention Center after a six-person jury convicted him of interfering with a conservation officer. Monroe County Judge Sharon Hamilton sentenced Morales to serve his time on weekends; he must report to jail each Friday by 5 p.m. and will be released on Sundays at 5 p.m. Assistant State Attorney Taylor Loe represented the state.
Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officers arrested Morales on September 4, 2016, in Little Angelfish Creek, near the Ocean Reef Club in North Key Largo.
Investigators Alexander Diaz and Christian Rodriguez were on the water patrolling undercover looking for people harvesting or attempting to harvest lobster in the Biscayne Bay/Card Sound Lobster Sanctuary, where harvesting lobster is illegal. A vessel with Morales and his brother aboard – “subjects which we have been investigating for illegal harvest of lobsters,” their report states – passed them heading north. So they headed in the same direction as Morales, found his boat tied to a bridge and anchored about 30 yards away. Morales then untied his boat and headed back south.
Diaz and Rodriguez radioed fellow FWC officers Scott Larosa and Rewa Schroth, who were in a marked boat in whose direction Morales was heading, and asked them to stop his boat to inspect it for lobsters. Diaz and Rodriguez then headed back south, too. As they did, they saw Morales’ boat, operated by his brother Alfredo, speeding back north followed by the other FWC vessel, which had its emergency lights activated. Diaz and Rodriguez then turned around and also headed back north.
The Morales’ boat came to a stop back under the bridge and, the officers wrote, Javier started dumping “numerous” spiny lobsters into the water. He continued dumping the lobsters even when Diaz yelled at him to stop. All four FWC officers then converged next to the Morales’ boat and secured it. Larosa then went into the water to search and found “lobsters everywhere under the defendants’ vessel.”
Both Morales were charged with illegally harvesting lobster and Javier Morales was additionally charged with interfering with an FWC officer, the charge on which the jury convicted him; Judge Hamilton dismissed the harvesting charge. Alfredo Morales was convicted by a jury of fleeing law enforcement (a charge lodged by the State Attorney’s Office) and is appealing; his harvesting charge, too, was dismissed by a court.
In addition to the 60 days in jail, Javier Morales will serve six months of probation and, while on probation, cannot be on or in Monroe County waters. He also must take an FWC marine-resources course and pay a $500 fine and various court fees.