Captain accused in fatal sinking seeks to waive speedy trial

By Stephen Betts | Feb 16, 2017

Portland — A Cushing captain charged with two counts of manslaughter in connection with the November 2014 sinking of a lobster boat is seeking to delay a trial for at least two months in order to give his attorneys more time to prepare.

Attorney Jeremy Pratt, of Camden, filed Feb. 10 a motion to waive the speedy trial right for 28-year-old Christopher A. Hutchinson. The motion seeks a delay of at least 60 days for a trial that had been scheduled for April in U.S. District Court in Portland.

The federal government has turned over a large amount of evidence to Hutchinson's attorneys, including within the past week, and they need more time to go through that information to prepare for trial, the motion states.

Hutchinson is free on $10,000 unsecured bail after being arrested Dec. 19 on two counts of seaman's manslaughter.

The court has given both sides until March 3 to file information about the proposed postponement. Assistant U.S. Attorney Halsey Frank does not object to the continuance, according to Pratt.

The lobster boat No Limits sank Nov. 1, 2014. The indictment alleges that Hutchinson was negligent in operating the vessel by going out when the weather forecast called for dangerous weather and sea conditions. In addition, the federal government claims he was using controlled substances and alcohol while he drove the vessel.

The two crew members — Tom Hammond, 27, of Rockland, and 15-year-old Tyler Sawyer, who lived in St. George and Waldoboro, respectively — were lost in the sinking.

The indictment alleges that Hutchinson purchased oxycodone without a prescription, smoked marijuana and drank alcohol prior to departing for the fishing trip.

In an interview that Hutchinson gave a few days after the sinking, he said the No Limits was on its way back to the mainland after a day of hauling traps when the seas and winds quickly intensified, causing his 45-foot fiberglass lobster boat to flip.

A weather buoy nearby reported wind gusts of 40 knots and waves of up to 14 feet.

The boat flipped at about 11 a.m. several miles west of Matinicus, he said. The emergency position indicating radio beacon, or EPIRB, and life raft popped out from under the vessel more than two hours later, he said. The EPIRB activated at 1:36 p.m.

When he saw the raft come to the surface, Hutchinson said, he swam the 15 to 20 feet to the raft and climbed on board. The raft was about 4 feet in diameter and was enclosed with a canopy.

He said he fired off one flare and waited. Eventually, he spotted a helicopter and fired off another flare.

An MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter from Air Station Cape Cod arrived at about 4:30 p.m., lowered a bucket down to the raft and hauled Hutchinson up to the helicopter. He was taken to Maine Medical Center in Portland. A blood test on Hutchinson at the hospital showed oxycodone and marijuana in his system, according to the indictment.

In July 2015, Justice Daniel Billings ruled that $170,500 in damages should go to Michelle Miete of Washington, who is the personal representative of the estate of Hammond, and the remaining $139,500 of the settlement fund will go to Lisa Chickering and Travis Sawyer, the parents and personal representatives of Tyler Sawyer.

Attorneys Philip Cohen, of Waldoboro, and Jeffrey Langholtz, of Biddeford, are also representing Hutchinson.

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