Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Trapper who staged python's capture facing criminal charges

Justin Matthews released a python in Bradenton, then staged its capture. He said he was trying to call attention to irresponsible pet ownership.

Special to the Times

Justin Matthews released a python in Bradenton, then staged its capture. He said he was trying to call attention to irresponsible pet ownership.

BRADENTON — A trapper who staged a phony capture of a 14-foot Burmese python in Manatee County in July is now facing criminal charges.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission officials arrested 47-year-old Justin Matthews of Bradenton on Wednesday, accusing him of one third-degree felony count of misusing 911 and a second-degree misdemeanor of maintaining captive wildlife in an unsafe manner resulting in threats to the public's safety.

On July 25, Matthews, a nuisance-animal trapper, called Tampa Bay area media to a Bradenton neighborhood to witness the capture of a large Burmese python from a drainage pipe. Matthews claimed he was performing a public service by capturing a snake residents had reported seeing for months.

Matthews also claimed the python posed a threat to nearby schoolchildren. In fact, officials say, Matthews had purchased the snake legally from a licensed reptile dealer in Tampa a month earlier. He let the snake go in the drainage pipe and then staged its capture for the media. The story made national headlines.

Questioned by authorities, Matthews admitted to wildlife commission investigator James Manson that he bought and released the snake, staging the event to call attention to irresponsible pet ownership. He was inspired, he told Manson, after a python strangled an infant in Sumter County on July 1. He settled on his plan after watching a show on Animal Planet.

In August, Matthews made a public apology for television cameras near the drainpipe where the fake capture occurred. "It was a mistake,'' Matthews said at the time. "But I didn't put anyone in jeopardy."

Trapper who staged python's capture facing criminal charges 11/05/09 [Last modified: Thursday, November 5, 2009 11:44pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Necropsy confirms drowning as Snooty the manatee's cause of death

    Human Interest

    BRADENTON— The South Florida museum aquarium will re-open Tuesday and grief counselors will be available after the untimely death of beloved manatee Snooty.

    Snooty, the Manatee County mascot, turned 60 in 2008. Hundreds of people came to the Parker Manatee Aquarium to see Snooty at his birthday party. He was the first manatee to have a recorded birth date on July 21, 1948.

 [Times (2008)]
  2. Charlie Gard's parents withdraw legal action over their sick baby

    World

    LONDON — The parents of critically ill baby Charlie Gard dropped their legal bid Monday to send him to the United States for experimental treatment after new medical tests showed it could no longer help.

    Chris Gard and Connie Yates, the parents of critically ill infant Charlie Gard, arrive at the Royal Courts of Justice in London ahead of the latest High Court hearing in London Monday July 24, 2017. They  returned  to the court for the latest stage in their effort to seek permission to take the child to the United States for medical treatment. Britain's High Court is considering new evidence in the case of Charlie Gard. The 11-month-old has a rare genetic condition, and his parents want to take him to America to receive an experimental treatment. [Jonathan Brady | PA via AP]
  3. Restaurant review: Food and beer pair nicely at the Eatery at Brew Bus Terminal and Brewery

    Food & Dining

    TAMPA - Tampa Bay's craft beer scene is perennially in flux. New breweries open, others close or get scooped up by bigger breweries, some reinvent themselves so they can sell beer off site, and still others build on kitchens and add food to give enthusiasts another reason to sit tight.

    A Passion of the Heights hibiscus wheat ale is displayed at The Brew Bus in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, Jul 19, 2017.  The Brew Bus Terminal, which houses a microbrewery and tasting room and serves as a hub for bus tours to local breweries, has opened an on-site kitchen called the Eatery. With the opening of the new casual dining concept, the brewery joins the ranks of microbreweries across the country that have asked that question: "What goes with beer? Hey, how about food?"
  4. For starters: Rays vs. Orioles, seeking to halt a skid

    Blogs

    After being swept by the Rangers, and losing four straight, the Rays are looking to get back on track tonight against the Orioles, and they have LHP Blake Snell on the mound.

     Blake Snell will be on the mound tonight.
  5. This 'SNL' writer is cracking up Twitter with his replies to President Donald Trump's tweets

    National

    Josh Patten is a writer for Saturday Night Live. Earlier this month, he began responding to President Donald Trump's tweets as if they were private texts to Patten.