Jose Caballero, 40, and Elissa Alvarez, 20, were arrested on July 20, 2014, for having sex on Bradenton Beach, a Gulf of Mexico beach about 45 minutes south of Tampa, in front of other beachgoers, including children.
The pair denied they had been having intercourse, arguing instead that Alvarez had been “dancing” on top of Cabellero to wake him up, Assistant State Attorney Anthony Dafonseca told BuzzFeed News.
The court was shown cell phone footage of Alvarez gyrating on top of Caballero. In the end, it took the jury just 15 minutes to convict the pair of second-degree felony charges of “lewd and lascivious exhibition” in front of a minor.
“I don’t think the jury had any doubt that was sexual intercourse,” Dafonseca told reporters outside the courtroom.
“We’re dealing with basically tourists,” Dafonseca said. “They’re here on the beaches of Manatee County, our public beaches. 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.”
According to court records, a sentencing hearing has yet to be set, but the charges carry a maximum 15 years in prison.
Dafonseca said his office is considering asking the court to impose the full sentence on Caballero, who had previously served jail time for trafficking cocaine, according to public records.
“Ms. Alvarez, she has no criminal history, so we’ll be seeking a reasonable sentence in accordance with that,” Dafonseca said. “But Mr. Caballero, he went to prison, he had a prior criminal history, he was out within a couple of years, three years, committed another offense.”
“We’ll probably be seeking some incarceration, but in terms of how long… 15 years, we’re still debating that,” he said.
Caballero’s defense attorney Ronald Kurpiers told the Bradenton Herald that the judge will have no discretion in sentencing and is likely to impose the full 15-year sentence because of his status as a re-offender.
However, Dafonseca told BuzzFeed News on Tuesday evening that his office is considering asking for a lesser sentence of three years for Caballero and “nothing longer than 60 days” for Alvarez, followed by a term of probation.
Such a sentence for Caballero would still be notably more severe than the maximum two-year prison sentence for a similar offense in the United Arab Emirates, where a British couple were sentenced to three months in prison for indecent behavior on a beach in 2008. The pair were deported before serving any jail time.
Caballero’s mother, who declined to be named, told reporters outside the court her son was a good man.
“There are other things out there we need to worry about, and they’re still loose, people who have done worse stuff,” she said.