The jury’s verdict against former crew members of a chemical tanker guilty of committing pollution was upheld by a federal judge in Charleston. The incident occurred aboard the 600-foot Green Sky, a Liberian registered vessel.
The judge Margaret Seymour found the two men guilty of committing pollution related crime last February this year.
The judge said in an order released on Friday that, “Sufficient evidence was presented at trial to support the jury’s guilty verdicts against Panagiotis Koutoukakis, former chief engineer of the Green Sky vessel, and Herbert Julien, who succeeded him in that job”.
Record book falsified:
Panagiotis Koutoukakis, former Chief Engineer of the Greek chemical tanker Green Sky was found guilty of falsifying the oil record book to cover up illegal pollution discharges and faces a prison term of 25 years. Herbert Julien, next successor after Koutoukakis was found guilty of committing conspiracy to cover up the evidence and faces a maximum sentence of 5 years.
Court records show that the Greek vessel dumped thousands of gallons of oily bilge waste into the Atlantic Ocean during the two men’s tenures.
Lawyers appeal for overturn:
Lawyers for the two men asked the judge to overturn the jury’s verdict, saying prosecutors didn’t prove their case and that the jury was inconsistent with its findings because the men were found guilty of some charges but not guilty of related charges. The request also stated jury members reached a “compromise verdict” because they only deliberated for about four hours after hearing complicated testimony in a trial that lasted three weeks.
Seymour responded, “While the deliberations were short, the jurors appeared interested in the case, were not rushed by the court and the charges mostly focused on whether the jurors believed the (oil record book) was accurate or not,” Seymour said in her order. “While the question of a ‘compromise verdict’ is a serious issue, the court does not find there is sufficient evidence to demonstrate a compromise verdict occurred in this case”.
Sequence of events:
Koutoukakis had ordered crew members to bypass the ship’s oil and water separator and discharge waste overboard six times from May 2015 to July 2015. He then failed to record the discharges as required by law in the ship’s oil record book. Julien was accused of failing to keep accurate records and falsifying the oil record book.
The crime was discovered during an investigation by the U.S. Coast Guard started in August 2015 when the vessel was docked at the Port of Charleston’s terminal in North Charleston.
The crew members allegedly exposed the incident to the Coast Guard at that time that bilge waste was being discharged illegally and that they had been instructed to use a “magic pipe” — a yellow hose that bypassed the ship’s oil and water separator.
Vessel skipper Genero Anciano, pleaded guilty to one felony charge of obstructing a Coast Guard investigation when the February trial took place and he agreed to testify against Koutoukakis and Julien.
Vessel operator fined:
Aegean Shipping Management, vessel operator, also pleaded guilty to violating pollution laws. The operator was fined $1.7 million, placed on probation for three years and ordered to make a $300,000 community service payment.
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Source: Post and Courier