Trial set for Cosco Busan pilot

May 24, 2008 4:18:24 PM PDT
The pilot of a ship that spilled nearly 54,000 gallons of oil into the San Francisco Bay last fall has been given a tentative date of Oct. 20 for a federal trial in San Francisco.

U.S. District Judge Susan Illston issued an order Friday setting the tentative trial date for pilot John Cota, 60, of Petaluma.

Cota faces two felony charges of making false statements on medical forms submitted to the U.S. Coast Guard and two misdemeanor charges of negligently polluting the bay and killing migratory birds.

Cota was piloting the Cosco Busan when it struck a protective fender at the base of the Bay Bridge on Nov. 7 and sustained a gash through which nearly 54,000 gallons of heavy bunker fuel spilled into the water.

Prosecutors this week asked Illston to set a trial date so they would be legally able to serve subpoenas on the ship's captain and five crew members to testify at the trial.

Three crew members are scheduled to have pretrial depositions taken Thursday and the captain and other two crew members on Aug. 11, according to a prosecution filing. The U.S. Justice Department attorneys said they wanted to serve the trial subpoenas before the crew members leave the country after the depositions.

Meanwhile, however, defense attorney Jeff Bornstein has told the judge he plans to file a motion seeking dismissal of the charges. Illston will consider that motion, which has not yet been filed, at a hearing July 18.

Bornstein also said at a May 9 hearing that he intends to file an additional motion seeking to move the trial to a different court outside Northern California.


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