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Ex-cop given four years in prison after fatal BUI-boat accident

On behalf of Terence Gross of Gross & Schuster, P.A. posted in Offshore & Boat Accidentson Friday, January 28, 2011.

A former decorated police officer from Cobb County, Georgia, has been convicted of several crimes in relation to the fatal boat accident that took his best friend’s life. The former cop pled guilty to second-degree homicide by water vessel, criminal neglect and violating his oath of office when he delayed calling for help after his friend, also a police officer, fell overboard. That delay cost his friend his life.

The defendant was apparently trying to hide the fact that his mistress had also been aboard at the time of the fatal accident, and that they were drunk.

Although this was a criminal case rather than a wrongful death lawsuit, the tragedy is the same. One man’s bad judgment cost the life of another, and two families were destroyed. As the mother of the deceased man said, it is an occasion for “deep, deep sadness and heartbreak. This was a no-win situation for either family.”

Judge turns aside man’s remorse for the events that caused his best friend’s death

“Saying you’re sorry doesn’t help. Whatever you say at this late date is too little, too late,” said Judge Frank Mills to the defendant at his sentencing hearing today.

According to prosecutors, on April 22, 2010, the man, his mistress and his now-deceased friend were boating after dinner at a lakeside restaurant. They were drunk.

Suddenly, in the dark, the boat hit a pylon and the best friend was knocked into the water. The man and his mistress circled the area for 20 to 30 minutes, shouting for their friend, but to no avail. The defendant then decided to take his mistress to shore so no one would find out she was with him. He bundled her back onto shore, along with a cooler full of beer and a trash bag of empty beer bottles, and instructed her not to tell anyone where she had been.

It was 90 minutes after the fatal boat accident that the officer finally called 911. When help arrived, he did not mention that he had found his friend’s flip-flop on the water. He denied that they had been drinking, but his blood-alcohol content was later found to be .13 — far higher than the .08 limit.

Perhaps worst of all, he told police that his friend had voluntarily jumped into the cold water.

“[He] was my best friend,” the defendant said. “I’m sorry to the family. I’m sorry to my friends. I’m sorry to my family.”

“The lies that took place that night and the day after were sickening,” said the wife of the deceased, who urged the judge to hand down the maximum sentence. She also testified about the impact her husband’s death has had on her and their two children.

On top of jail time and probation, the judge ordered the former officer to do something that should keep the consequences of his actions fresh in his mind. Every year, he will be required to visit the grave of someone who was killed in an alcohol-related accident.

Drunk boating causes far too many boating fatalities every year. Please remember that the consequences of poor decisions can be far-reaching and tragic. Be safe.

Source: Atlanta Journal Constitution, “Ex-Cobb cop gets 4 years in fellow officer’s drowning,” Rhonda Cook, January 28, 2011

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