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Hawaii aquarium fish collector gets suspended sentence

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    A diver near Kona swims toward activist Rene Umberger before ripping out her air-supply regulator in this frame from a video Umberger released. Fish collectors have accused activists of harassment.

KAILUA-KONA >> A Hawaii fish collector who tore a scuba regulator out of the mouth of an anti-aquarium fish activist won’t have to spend time in jail if he stays out of trouble under a plea agreement reached with prosecutors.

Jay Lovell pleaded no contest to second-degree terroristic threatening on Tuesday, West Hawaii Today reported.

He received a six-month deferred sentence and must also obtain an anger-management assessment as part of the agreement reached between prosecutors and Lovell’s defense attorney.

Lovell won’t have to serve the time, and the incident may be removed from his record if he stays out of trouble for one year.

Rene Umberger and five other divers were filming Lovell harvesting fish in about 50 feet of water when Lovell ripped the regulator out of Umberger’s mouth.

Umberger took the stand briefly to ask that Lovell’s fishing license be suspended during the deferment period. But 3rd Circuit Court Chief Judge Ronald Ibarra told her the court must abide by the terms of the plea agreement.

“That act of ripping out my air supply was terrifying and dangerous, and if it had occurred to someone who did not have as much experience as I did, they might well have died,” said Umberger, a coral reef consultant for Humane Society International.

Umberger has said she and fellow divers approached Lovell with cameras to document him collecting tropical fish on the reef.

A video of the May 2014 incident shows a collector quickly swimming about 30 to 40 feet toward a diver who is filming them and ripping out her air-supply regulator. A snorkeler watching from above filmed the scene with another camera.

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