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Kodiak Jury Finds Fisherman Not Guilty of Intentionally Cutting Another Fishing Boat's Net

A Kodiak jury found a commercial fisherman not guilty of charges of intentionally running over another vessel's fishing net. The jury returned the verdict on September 13, 2010, after a four day trial.

Steve Suydam had been charged criminally for the incident and was facing a potential one year jail sentence and up to a $10,000 fine. The criminal charges arose out of an August 20, 2008 incident on Kodiak Island's Red River. The accident allegedly resulted in nearly $5,000 in net damage and loss of two days of fishing time to a vessel captained by David Pyle.

Suydam did not dispute that he had run over Pyle's net but, rather, contended that Pyle had set his net too close to Suydam's, resulting in Suydam's boat running over Pyle's net.

Crewmembers from both vessels testified at trial. Crewmembers from Pyle's boat claimed that Suydam's vessel celebrated after cutting their net and taunted them over the radio.

The jury was not convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that Suydam had intentionally run over Pyle's net and returned the not guilty verdict. Prosecutors attempting to prove criminal intent in such cases face a difficult burden of proof. Following the trial, Suydam reportedly stated that he was relieved at the outcome, and stated that these matters should be resolved in civil actions rather than through the criminal justice system.

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