Florida man hits manatee, has to give up boat

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In what is believed to be the first federal criminal prosecution in Florida for striking and killing a manatee with a boat, a Merritt Island man was sentenced Wednesday for killing the animal while zipping through a manatee slow zone.

Joseph Miata Jr., 62, who repeatedly had been cited for speeding through manatee zones, had to forfeit his 20-foot, $5,500 boat to the federal government and pay a $600 donation to a wildlife conservation group, the Florida Today newspaper reported.

"This is the first time that we're aware of that we ever prosecuted someone for a lethal take," Chuck Underwood, a spokesman for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, told the newspaper.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Orlando accused Miata in October of violating the Endangered Species Act. The manatee was killed as Miata sped through Sykes Creek last summer. He pleaded guilty to the misdemeanor.

U.S. Magistrate Judge David Baker sentenced Miata to one year of federal probation. He must forfeit the boat - a 1987 Mach 1 by Freedom Boats - that he was operating when he hit the manatee.

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