Donkey-sex suspect pleads no contest, gets probation

Published: Friday, December 14, 2012 at 12:21 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, December 14, 2012 at 12:21 p.m.

OCALA - The Marion County man accused of sexual activity with a miniature donkey named Doodle pleaded no contest to the charge Friday and was sentenced to a year of probation.

Carlos R. Romero, 32, was charged with sexual activity involving animals in August after he was found in a sexually compromising position with Doodle in his room at an area farm.

On Friday, Romero accepted a plea offer from the State Attorney’s Office for a year of probation and a $200 fine. He must also undergo a psychosexual evaluation and possible treatment and HIV and STD testing.

He was also ordered to have no contact with children in a school or playground setting and may not have unsupervised contact with animals.

Outside the courtroom, Romero admitted he performed sex acts in the presence of the miniature donkey and accepted the plea offer to avoid the possible year in jail and $1,000 fine.

“The law is so broad that the reality is, just being charged with it, there’s really no way I could fight it,” Romero said. “Can’t do much in jail versus a year of probation.”

He said he plans to appeal County Judge Steven Rogers’ decision that the Florida statute banning sexual activity with animals is not unconstitutional.

That factor also played a role in his decision to accept the plea offer. While serving probation, he hopes to appeal the judge’s decision and have the Fifth District Court of Appeal, and possibly the Florida Supreme Court, hear his case.

He wouldn’t be able to do that if he was behind bars, he said.

In a written order, Rogers denied Romero’s motion to find the law unconstitutional. The motion claimed that the statute infringed upon Romero’s due process rights and violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

Romero and his attorneys also argued that the possible year in jail was cruel and unusual punishment and was excessive for the offense, a first-degree misdemeanor.

“By making sexual conduct with an animal a crime, the statute demeans individuals like Defendant (Romero) by making his private sexual conduct a crime,” the attorneys wrote in the motion.

But those arguments didn’t sway Rogers.

“Upon reviewing the subject statute, this Court is confident that a person of ordinary intelligence would have ample notice that sexual conduct or sexual conduct (as defined by the statute) with a donkey is prohibited,” Rogers wrote in the order.

Romero had previously rejected the state’s plea offer, which forbade him from having any contact with mammals and revoked his license to work in horse racing.

He claimed he would become destitute if forbidden to work as an exercise rider and groom in the horse racing industry.

Romero reportedly bought the female miniature donkey from a man in Lake City for $500.

His fight to regain custody of Doodle continues. Marion County is also seeking to legally gain custody of the animal so it can put her up for adoption. A custody hearing is scheduled for Friday.

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