FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, November 2, 2018
St. John Boat Captain Arrested and Charged with Seaman’s Manslaughter for Causing a Death at Sea
St. Thomas, USVI – Richard Smith, 65, of St. John, was arrested today on an indictment charging him with seaman’s manslaughter, United States Attorney Gretchen C.F. Shappert announced. Smith made his initial appearance before Magistrate Judge Ruth Miller.
The indictment alleges that on or about October 25, 2015, Smith was the captain and owner of the S/V Cimarron. Through his inattention, negligence and misconduct, Smith allegedly caused the death of David Pontius. According to the indictment, Mr. Pontius was a crewmember aboard the S/V Cimarron when the 43-foot sailing vessel left North Carolina to return to St. John where Smith operates a sailing charter business. During the course of the return voyage, Mr. Pontius allegedly became disoriented, climbed over the rail of the boat, and jumped overboard. The indictment alleges that Smith failed to stop to render assistance. As a result, Mr. Pontius died.
The Seaman’s Manslaughter Statute, 18 U.S.C. § 1115, holds ship officers, maritime vessel owners, and maritime corporate management criminally responsible for conduct that results in death on a vessel within the special maritime and territorial jurisdiction of the United States and within the general admiralty jurisdiction of the federal courts. Ship officers—"[e]very captain, engineer, pilot or other person employed . . . on any vessel"—are accountable for "misconduct, negligence or inattention to . . . duties" that results in a loss of life. If convicted of Seaman’s Manslaughter, Smith faces a maximum sentence of ten years and a $250,000 fine.
The case is being investigated by Coast Guard Investigative Service (CGIS) Chesapeake Region, United States Coast Guard – Marine Safety Detachment (MSD) St. Thomas and prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Sigrid M. Tejo-Sprotte.
United States Attorney Shappert reminds the public that an indictment is merely a formal charging document and is not evidence of guilt. Every defendant is presumed innocent until and unless found guilty.
USAO - Virgin Islands
Updated November 2, 2018
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