After only 15 minutes of deliberation, a jury Monday found a couple guilty of having sex on Bradenton Beach.
The convictions carry maximum prison sentences of 15 years.
Jose Caballero, 40, and Elissa Alvarez, 20, were charged with two counts each of lewd and lascivious behavior for having sex on a public beach July 20, 2014.
Video played in the courtroom during the 1- 1/2-day trial showed Alvarez moving on top of Caballero in a sexual manner in broad daylight. Witnesses testified a 3-year-old girl saw them.
Caballero and Alvarez will now have to register as sex offenders.
A sentencing date was not announced, but Assistant State Attorney Anthony Dafonseca said they will pursue a harsher sentence for Caballero than Alvarez, since Alvarez has no prior record and Caballero spent almost eight years in prison for a cocaine-trafficking conviction.
The state will ask for jail time for Alvarez and prison time for Caballero. Dafonseca said Caballero is he’s looking at serving the maximum time of 15 years after being out of prison less than three years before committing another felony.
“We gave them a reasonable offer, what we felt was reasonable, and they decided it wasn’t something they wanted to accept responsibility for,” Dafonseca said. “Despite the video, despite all the witnesses.”
Defense attorney Ronald Kurpiers said his clients were “devastated,” by the verdict.
Though Dafonseca hinted they’d speak with the judge about whether 15 years was an appropriate sentence for Caballero, Kurpiers said the judge would have no discretion.
“That’s what he'll get,” Kurpiers said.
Ed Brodsky, state attorney for the 12th Judicial District, joined Dafonseca in prosecuting the case. When asked why the case was important to the state attorney, Dafonseca said the community must know such behavior isn’t tolerated on public beaches.
“We’re dealing with basically tourists, that came from Brandon and Riverview and West Virginia, and they’re here on the beaches of Manatee County, our public beaches,” Dafonseca said, referring to witnesses. “So you want to make sure that this isn’t something that just goes by the wayside. And that it is well known to the community what will be tolerated and what won’t be.”
Family members defended the two defendants outside the courthouse saying the crime did not deserve this kind of attention.
“He’s a great person,” said Caballero’s mother of her son, declining to give her full name. “There are other things out there we need to worry about, and they’re still loose, people who have done worse stuff.”
“She’s an 18-year-old woman with a 40-year-old man,” said Carlos Alvarez of his daughter Elissa Alvarez. “I always say women can be better than men … but they fall in love and they make a lot of mistakes.”
Testimony was given by family members who witnessed the act, a Bradenton Beach police officer and Caballero. The defense argued the two weren’t actually having sex, but Alvarez had been dancing on Caballero or “nudging” him to wake him up.
“She wasn’t dancing,” Dafonseca said during closing arguments. “It’s insulting your intelligence to say that she was dancing.”
Kurpiers said since witnesses had not seen genitals or penetration, and neither was visible in the video, saying the two had sex was speculation.
“You folks cannot speculate,” Kurpiers told the jury. “And in order to say they had intercourse, you would have to speculate.”
Brodsky said they weren’t calling it the crime of the century, but it was still a violation of Florida law.
“Did they try to cuddle or do it discreetly? Did they go in the water where people couldn’t see?” Brodsky asked the jury. “Did Ms. Alvarez try to drape a towel over herself or anything? They didn’t care.”
Amaris Castillo, law enforcement/island reporter, contributed to this report.
Kate Irby, online/political reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7055 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @KateIrby.