How much jail time can you get for pouncing on a pelican? Facebook poster gets sentenced

It was the pelican jump seen around the social media world, recorded and posted on Facebook by the very man who did the deed.

Now, William Hunter Hardesty, the Maryland man who still displays the offending video on his Facebook page, is a convict.

This week he was found guilty on four misdemeanors, including two animal cruelty charges, for pouncing on a pelican during a visit to Key West.

Monroe County Court Judge Mark Wilson on Tuesday gave him 90 days in jail, with credit for 40 days served at the Stock Island Detention Center, plus a $1,000 fine and one year of probation.

In all, Hardesty faced a maximum penalty of two years for the pair of animal cruelty charges plus 120 days for two counts of violating federal rules on the treatment of migratory birds.

William Hunter Hardesty

Hardesty, 31, entered an “open plea” before Wilson at the Monroe County Courthouse, meaning there was no deal with prosecutors on the table. His attorney wanted credit for time served.

Assistant State Attorney Ryan Maher recommended six months with a year of probation.

Maher says Hardesty lacked remorse by posting jokes about the pelican grab after putting up the video showing him jumping in the water at a Key West harbor and manhandling the pelican. The bird at one point broke free and bit him on the face.

“He’s an internet troll,” Maher said. “He has troll remorse. He got a rise out of that up to the point where he got in trouble.”

Hardesty jumped on the pelican at Key West Historic Seaport on March 5 and posted it a few days later. It shows him first luring the pelican to a dock with a fish — which is illegal in Florida. Prosecutors didn’t pursue the illegal feeding charge.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission went after him, eventually filing a detailed 10-page warrant for his arrest.

FWC said Hardesty spent about 12 minutes trying to grab the pelican and the video shows his third attempt.

After his initial pelican post, Hardesty continued posting references to the incident, including saying he’d like to eat a pelican and then musing about getting a pelican tattoo.

By March 15, he was arrested in Maryland after bragging about the stunt to some people he met at an Ocean City hotel. They called the police.

The pelican grab drew thousands of people to Hardesty’s Facebook page, which became a target for his haters. Some called for his death, and most were packed with obscenities.