Judge: Cosco Busan Pilot Must Serve Full Sentence

Nov. 2007 incident dumped 50,00 gallons of oil into San Francisco Bay

A federal judge has turned down a bid by a pilot in a 2007 oil spill in the San Francisco Bay 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.

Last week, Cota's attorney, Jeff Bornstein, asked Illston to reduce the sentence to five months in prison and five months of home detention because of an alleged "clear error" in sentencing.

A federal court rule allows judges to correct sentences within seven working days if there has been a clear error.

The Cosco Busan spill has been estimated to have cost more than $70 million in damage to beaches, wildlife and the fishing industry.

Cota pleaded guilty to the two misdemeanor charges in March.

Bay City News

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