On Wednesday, March 18, 2015, a Key West jury took less than two hours to find both Romualdo Ricardo Salado and Christopher J. Payne guilty of one count of Molestation of Another’s Stone Crab Trap by a Commercial Harvester. Mr. Salado and Mr. Payne were found not guilty of a second count involving the same allegation. Prior to the jury being selected, both Mr. Salado and Mr. Payne had entered an open plea to one count of Possession of Undersized Stone Crab. The sentencing for Mr. Salado and Mr. Payne is set for Wednesday, April 8, 2015 at 1:30 p.m. before the Honorable Wayne Miller. The maximum penalty for the charge of Molestation of Another’s Stone Crab Trap by a Commercial Harvester is 5 years Florida State Prison. The maximum penalty for the charge of Possession of Undersized Stone Crab is 60 days county jail.
The trial, which lasted two days, featured the testimony of several law enforcement officers for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (hereafter referred to as FWC) as well as the commercial fishermen whose traps were alleged to have been molested by Mr. Salado and Mr. Payne.
The case arose when an eye witness reported seeing a commercial vessel pulling buoys that did not match its aerial display in the area of Ballast Key on March 8, 2013. Numerous FWC officers responded to the area including a pilot and two manned vessels. Officer Daniel Willman, the pilot, was able to witness the same commercial vessel pulling a buoy that did not match its aerial display and photographed a trap aboard the vessel. Other FWC Officers made contact with the commercial vessel and identified the two occupants as Mr. Salado and Mr. Payne. Aboard the vessel, FWC Officers located 25 undersized stone crab claws among their catch.
The State of Florida was represented by Assistant State Attorneys Christine M. Poist and Marisa Faraldo-Tedesco. On behalf of the people of the State of Florida, State Attorney Catherine Vogel thanks the jury for their dedicated service in this case.