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San Francisco Bay oil spill ship pilot faces new felony charges

[JURIST] Federal prosecutors filed felony charges [indictment, PDF; press release] Tuesday against Capt. John Joseph Cota, the California maritime pilot accused in the November 2007 spill of approximately 58,000 gallons of heavy fuel oil in the San Francisco Bay. Cota, who was piloting the M/V Cosco Busan when it collided with the San Francisco Bay Bridge last year, was also charged [JURIST report] last month with misdemeanor environmental charges under the Clean Water Act and the Migratory Bird Treaty Act [texts] for his alleged negligent behavior.

According to the US Attorney's press release:

The new charges include two counts of making false statements to the Coast Guard on required annual medical forms. Coast Guard regulations require that pilots have an annual physical examination that results in the completion of a medical evaluation form. The form must be completed by a licensed physician or physician assistant, and signed by the pilot. The grand jury's indictment charges that Cota knowingly and willfully made materially false, fictitious, and fraudulent statements and representations on the required medical forms in that he certified that all the information he provided was complete and true to the best of his knowledge. The indictment alleges that in fact, Cota knew that the information he provided was neither complete nor true, including information regarding his current medications, the dosage, possible side effects and medical conditions for which the medications were taken.
The US Coast Guard and the National Transportation Safety Board launched investigations [JURIST report] last November following the accident. A Coast Guard captain said that a preliminary investigation indicated that the ship collided with the Bay Bridge due to human error. AP has more.

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