First people to stand trial in a seal harrassment case in San Diego found not guilty

Women accused of sitting on seals

LA JOLLA - The humans were behaving badly after the first trial over seal harassment.

A San Diego judge found Marie Franz and Vanessa Cornacchioli not guilty Wednesday in a Kearny Mesa courtroom. They were the first San Diegans to be prosecuted for allegedly harassing seals.

Night camera footage from a camera placed above the La Jolla Children’s Pool shows two women harassing and sitting on seals Feb. 14. The judge decided there was not enough evidence to completely identify Franz and Cornacchioli as the women in the video.

“I believed that these women actually did do this,” said Sara Wan of the Western Alliance for Nature, which installed the camera.

Wan said the trial was a victory because it served notice to anyone else who wants to harass the seals.

“It’s important to send a message that anybody who does do this does run the risk of being prosecuted,” she said.

As the courtroom emptied, one of the seal advocates apparently said an expletive to one of the defense witnesses.

Marine biologist Dr. Steven Springer testified seeing the defendants in their apartment at the same time the video was being recorded. Springer confronted the seal advocates outside the courtroom.

“Why did you say, ‘F*** you’ to me at the end of this trial, ma’am?” he asked the one who apparently said the expletive.

The women chose not to respond.

“You’ve got nothing to say about that?” Springer continued. “Except ‘f*** you’ right?”

The two sides eventually went their separate ways without further confrontation.

Franz and Cornacchioli could have faced a fine if found guilty.

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