King Cobra owner may keep his license for now

There was a big victory in a pre-trial hearing for Michael Kennedy on Friday afternoon. He is the owner of the King Cobra, named Elvis, that escaped his cage in September 2015.

The state filed a misdemeanor charge for not immediately reporting the missing cobra. Prosecutors say Kennedy waited 24 hours before calling FWC. The state Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission is trying to revoke Kennedy's license to own anymore venomous snakes. Kennedy’s defense attorney says he did notify them right away. The venomous snake was found nearly a month later in a neighbor’s garage.

“We’ve gone from the administrative process which is investigating and finding information to a criminal process which requires to read Miranda rights and then question him, which they did not read Miranda, they never informed him that they were investigating him for a crime,” said Kennedy’s defense attorney Nelson Tilden.

This afternoon, the judge suppressed the state’s motion to use Kennedy’s statements with FWC during the cobra search because the FWC officer never read him his Miranda rights. “We’re very happy with what the judge did today, made the right ruling, with the right set of facts and couldn’t be happier,” said Tilden.

Kennedy told us he did everything he was supposed to do. Since the escape, he tells us FWC has been to his house and says he’s in compliance and the King Cobra is safely secured.  “It was a very unusual circumstance that caused that animal to escape, not negligence, or faulty housing, or anything like that.  It was storms and water damage and FWC even backed me up on that again today. So that to me is huge. It wasn’t something I did that caused the animal to get out,” said Michael Kennedy.

The state has 30 days to appeal the judge’s decision. The next pre-trial status hearing will be on April 8th at 10 a.m. at the Orange County Courthouse.