Maui’s ‘Dolphin Dave’ pleads not guilty to harassing wildlife at Hawai‘i Island state park
A Maui man accused of harassing an adolescent humpback whale and a pod of dolphins in March in Kealakekua Bay on Hawaiʻi Island pleaded not guilty Thursday morning in Kona District Court and has requested a trial.
During the hearing, David Jiménez, also known as Dolphin Dave, appeared virtually with attorney Brandon Segal. Jiménez entered a not-guilty plea on two counts of intentionally, knowingly and/or recklessly molesting or disturbing the habitat of any wild mammal — specifically a whale and a dolphin — within the state park system. He is scheduled to appear in court on June 13 for a pretrial conference.
This charge is a petty misdemeanor and is punishable by a $250 fine or one year in jail.
The complaint filed against Jiménez in Kona District Court stated the 65-year-old had posted a video on Facebook on March 5 during an encounter with an adolescent humpback whale in South Kona’s Kealakekua Bay. Officers with the Department of Land and Natural Resources received the video, which showed the snorkeler close enough to almost touch the whale’s fin.
A state officer arrived on shore of the bay early the next morning and recorded Jiménez actively pursuing a pod of spinner dolphins. The video shows Jiménez, in a black dive suit, leading a group chasing the dolphins. Both whales and dolphins are protected by state and federal laws.
The officer spoke with Jiménez following the incident at 9:15 a.m. Upon advising him of his rights, the complaint said Jiménez admitted to pursuing the whale on the previous day.
Jiménez told officers he’s not going to stop swimming with whales and dolphins “because it’s magical and others do much worse things,” according to a press release from the state agency in March.