Hal Kreitman, the "Gator Whisperer," who was the subject of a New Times story last month, was recently arrested by the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission on "harassment of a protected species" charges.
Kreitman could be facing a felony conservation charged.
Kreitman received a bit of attention after our piece ran, including television stints. Now he's using the internet again to try and have people donate to help him with his legal fees.
Kreitman has started a Go Fund Me account so he can fight the charges brought on by the FWC.
On the Go Fund description, Kreitman writes:
I've run out of options now I'm relying on the people that believe in what I do I believe I did nothing wrong that believe I'm being harassed by FWC..all support is very much appreciated.
I was accused of harassing and capturing alligators, I'm a wildlife photographer that was simply taking pictures In the everglades. And of the money raised I'll donate 20 percent to the charity suggested most. animal charity
According to reports, Kreitman had been shooting a segment for a CBS Miami piece on him where he supposedly swam in the water with some gators. Two undercover FWC agents, who had been in contact with him over the course of several weeks, moved in and arrested Kreitman.
Kreitman, who had fallen on hard times after being convicted on several counts of insurance-fraud, took up with swimming with gators in the wild. He also charges $250 for gator experiences for anyone interested in doing the same.
But, according to the FWC, Kreitman was "harassing alligators and endangering the public: when the officers found him in the water with gators and a few of his clients.
"Interacting with [alligators] in this manner in the wild is considered harassment of a protected species, and it is illegal under Florida Statute," wrote the FWC, who made his the Krietman arrest their featured case of the week on Facebook. "The man was booked into the Monroe County jail on Plantation Key."
Meanwhile, at least one lawyer thinks Kreitman may have a case against the FWC.
On his Crimcourts blog, Florida attorney Spencer Cordell writes that what Kreitman did not do what he's been charged with.
"Kreitman has been charged, among other things, with a felony, under the statute prohibiting "Illegal killing, possessing, or capturing of alligators..." Here's the problem... he did not kill, injure, possess, or capture any alligators, nor attempt to do so," Cordell writes.
Cordell also goes on to note that the Florida law does not say what the FWC is misleading in their claims of a law being broken.
"The statute is written to prevent poaching of alligators, at no point does it say anything about the "harassment" of alligators," Cordell writes. "The FWC wants the law to read how they interpret it, but the plain language does not prohibit interacting with alligators, and the State has improperly charged Mr, Kreitman with a felony. The FWC is wrong, and they have been misleading us the whole time."
Cordell notes that there is a separate law against feeding gators, but that's not what Kreitman was charged with. Nor are there any reports of anyone seeing him feed alligators (though he has been seen traveling with raw meat in his truck).
Meanwhile, Krietman took to Facebook to write an impassioned -- albeit garbled -- response to the charges leveled on him, and his intentions to fight back:
"if there's anybody that thinks I did anything wrong legally or not please express your opinion. FWC keep your dukes up because we're going to have a fight and you're going to lose you drummed upl malicious charges. intent to kill capture or possess an alligator and or its eggs you have nothing to charge me laugh but make up one charge give me an ROR on that and laughed at it too..you don't realize I'm doing good out there but I can't wait to see you in court so I know you're reading this I love how you said you had an intense sting operation I was expecting you you didn't think I knew that girl that called me wasn't one of you."
According to another comment on his Facebook, Kreitman says he sent Cordell an email.
Anyone interested in donating to help Krietman can do so here. As of this writing, only one person has donated to the cause. So far, Krietman has raised $20.
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