Seal mutilation trial date set

A trial date has been set for the Kaua’i man accused of mutilating the corpse of a Hawaiian monk seal. Justin Freemon, 24, will appear in court on June 13, just over a month after his May 12 arrest for violating the state Endangered Species Act.

Authorities with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources and NOAA Fisheries Service believe Freemon beheaded a dead seal at Pila’a Beach.

The body of the decapitated seal on the remote beach was reported to the DLNR on May 1 by a local resident.

Following leads, investigators from the DLNR’s Division of Conservation and Resources Enforcement were able to locate the seal’s head, which led to the arrest.

The cause of death of the seal is under investigation.

The Hawaiian monk seal is the most endangered seal species in the United States, with fewer than 1,300 remaining, said DLNR deputy director Robert Masuda.

They are protected under the Endangered Species Act and the Marine Mammal Protection Act, in addition to various wildlife laws of the State of Hawai‘i.

“All monk seals, both alive and dead, are protected,” Masuda said in a press release last week.

A first-time violator of state marine mammal protection laws could face a fine of no less than $250 and up to one year in jail.

Freemon is also charged with intimidation of a witness.

• Ford Gunter, associate editor, can be reached at 245-3681 (ext. 224) or fgunter@kauaipubco.com.

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