Oil Spill Ship Pilot Sentenced

Cosco Busan dumped more than 50,000 gallons into SF Bay

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    NEWSLETTERS

    John Cota was the at the helm of the Cosco Busan when the ship struck a protective fender of a Bay Bridge support pillar in 2007 and spilled more than 53,000 gallons of oil into the Bay.

    The pilot of a container ship that spilled more than 53,000 gallons of oil into the San Francisco Bay two years ago was sentenced to 10 months in prison a federal judge today for two criminal misdemeanors.

    Pilot John Cota, 61, of Petaluma, pleaded guilty before U.S. District Judge Susan Illston in San Francisco in March to two counts of  negligently polluting the Bay and killing migratory birds.

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

    In the plea bargain, prosecutors and defense attorneys agreed on a sentence of between two and 10 months in prison.

    Prosecutors contend Cota engaged in "a series of intentional and negligent acts" and are asking Illston to sentence him to the maximum 10 months.

    Defense attorneys, who are seeking the minimum two-month term, say Cota has "deep feelings of regret about the tragic events," but maintain that his actions were not the only cause of the accident.

    The spill is estimated to have caused more than $70 million in damage to beaches around the Bay, wildlife, the fishing industry and local businesses.

    Bay City News contributed to this report.