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John Cota, Pilot Of The Cosco Busan, Pleads Guilty

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March 6, 2009

John Cota and The M/V Cosco Busan

First revealed on gCaptain’s Professional Mariner Forum (LINK) last week, the news is now official… John Cota, pilot of the Cosco Busan, has plead guilty to charges and faces jail time. The San Francisco Chronicle tells us:

The pilot of the container ship that struck the Bay Bridge in 2007 and spilled 53,000 gallons of fuel oil pleaded guilty today to federal water pollution charges in an agreement that calls for him to serve two to 10 months in prison.

Capt. John Cota, 61, admitted in a San Francisco courtroom that he acted negligently in piloting the 901-foot-long Cosco Busan in a heavy morning fog Nov. 7, 2007. He also admitted failing to disclose all the prescription drugs he was taking when he renewed his federal and state pilot’s licenses in 2006 and 2007.

But his negotiated plea agreement nearly fell apart when a prosecutor read a lengthy account of Cota’s alleged misdeeds and his lawyer protested that it was full of inaccuracies.

“An incompetent, untrained crew and mistakes by the Coast Guard” contributed to the accident, defense attorney Jeffrey Bornstein told U.S. District Judge Susan Illston.

Illston reproached Assistant U.S. Attorney Jonathan Schmidt for “arguing for the grandstand,” but accepted Cota’s guilty plea to misdemeanor charges of violating the Clean Water Act and the Migratory Bird Act. She scheduled sentencing for June 19.

Besides imprisonment, the plea agreement includes a fine of between $3,000 and $30,000. Cota, a vessel pilot for 26 years, has surrendered his license and said in his plea agreement that he would not reapply until January 2010. Read More…

The question remains… What are the implications for the maritime industry?

Read gCaptain’s series topic links:

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