It’s been dubbed the “sex-on-the-beach” trial.
A Florida jury on Monday convicted Jose Caballero, 40, and Elissa Alvarez, 20, on charges that they had sex on Bradenton Beach in broad daylight. They face up to 15 years behind bars and will have to register as sex offenders.
Each of them faced two charges of lewd and lascivious behavior, carrying a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison, the Bradenton Herald reported.
Defense attorney Ronald Kurpiers told the newspaper that Caballero and Alvarez were “devastated” by the jury’s decision.
Prosecutors — including the elected 12th Circuit State Attorney Ed Brodsky — sought a conviction in the high-profile trial to make it clear that such behavior is not acceptable on the community’s 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,” Assistant State Attorney Anthony Dafonseca said, according to the Herald. “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.”
Prosecutors said Caballero could face the maximum 15 years because he has been out of prison for less than three years on a drug charge, but they will seek a more lenient sentence for Alvarez: 60 days in jail, though she still has to register as a sex offender, Fox affiliate WTVT reported.
Dafonseca told the station that prosecutors offered plea deals but that the pair rejected them.
“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, according to the Herald. “Despite the video, despite all the witnesses.”
According to the probable cause affidavit filed in Manatee County, an officer responded to a 911 call on July 20, 2014, about a man and woman having intercourse. The caller said she “was very upset because her 4-year-old daughter witnessed the couple having sex on the beach.”
Six other witnesses also filled out complaints. The great-grandmother of two children who witnessed the pair recorded them on her cellphone. The footage went viral online and became a key piece of evidence in the trial. April Champ, the grandmother of the children, said it looked as if Caballero and Alvarez were having sex, although she didn’t see their genitals or penetration.
“I knew based on the movement,” Champ said during the trial. She also testified that the children’s mother asked them to stop, which they did, but then started later.
Kurpiers argued that the two didn’t have sex, that the video footage doesn’t show the actual act and that witnesses didn’t see genitals or penetration. “You folks cannot speculate,” he told the jury, the Herald reported. “And in order to say they had intercourse, you would have to speculate.”
Dafonseca argued that “sexual simulation” had occurred.
The Florida statute prosecutors used is 800.04, “lewd or lascivious offenses committed by people 18 or older, upon or in the presence of people under 16 years old.”
The trial lasted less than two days, and the jury deliberated for 15 minutes.
A sentencing date hasn’t been set.