New Guilty Plea in Cosco Busan Case

Thursday, Aug 13, 2009  |  Updated 12:35 PM PDT
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New Guilty Plea in Cosco Busan Case

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The Hong Kong-based company that operates the cargo ship that caused a 2007 oil spill in San Francisco Bay has pleaded guilty to criminal charges.
    
Fleet Management Ltd. pleaded guilty to charges of obstruction, making false statements and negligent discharge of oil and agreed to pay a $10 million fine, under a deal reached with prosecutors. A federal judge still must approval the deal.

The Cosco Busan sideswiped the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge on a foggy morning on Nov. 7, 2007. The ship spilled 53,000 gallons of oil into the water, killing thousands of birds and other wildlife and fouling miles of shoreline.

It is not the first guilty plea in the case.

The ship's pilot, John Cota, pled guilty to the two misdemeanor charges back in March.

Just last week, a federal judge turned down a bid by Cota for a reduction of his 10-month sentence for two misdemeanor environmental crimes.

U.S. District Susan Illston said in a brief order that she believes the sentence for John Cota, 61, of Petaluma, was "appropriate" and that his negligent conduct "appears to be precisely the type Congress intended to penalize."

Cota was the pilot of the Cosco Busan when the container ship struck a fender of a Bay Bridge pillar in heavy fog on Nov. 7, 2007, and  spilled more than 53,000 gallons of fuel oil into the Bay.

Illston sentenced him in San Francisco on July 17 to 10 months in prison for negligently polluting the Bay in violation of the U.S. Clean Water Act and killing migratory birds.

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