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Thread: American jailed for fishing in the BVI

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    RBW Member 5000grapas is an unknown quantity at this point 5000grapas's Avatar
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    American jailed for fishing in the BVI

    I received the following email from Richard Baker - It's pretty straight forward. He's a good dive buddy of mine and a DCI Dive Instructor (not rebreathing yet!) who's been taking the opportunity to dive St. Thomas for the last couple of years with his girlfriend Debbie aboard Mambo. The following is the cautionary tale:

    Date:Sat, 23 Feb 2008 03:31:43 -0800 (PST)From: "Richard Baker" Add Mobile Alert
    Yahoo! DomainKeys has confirmed that this message was sent by yahoo.com. Learn moreSubject: Fwd: [ACPD RETIRED] The End of the Rich Baker StoryTo: padi176715@yahoo.com

    For those who have followed our saga, or if you were not aware of it, here is what we consider the best article that was written. It was published in the January edition of "Soundings" magazine. Our best to all.

    Biff & Debbie

    Have a wonderful day and please dive safely.

    From:"Eileen Williams" To:ACPDRETIRED@GOOGLEGROUPS.COMSubject:[ACPD RETIRED] The End of the Rich Baker StoryDate:Fri, 22 Feb 2008 20:50:18 -0500

    American jailed for fishing in the BVI
    Jim Flannery
    When he couldn’t pay a $45,000 fine for not having a license, the cruiser was sentenced to a year in jail

    An American sentenced to a year in a British Virgin Islands prison for fishing without a license is back home, his sentence commuted after a widely publicized campaign to free him.
    “I’m glad to be home,” says Richard Baker, 54, of St. Thomas , U.S. Virgin Islands . “For someone who has dedicated his life to the criminal justice system, it was quite a rude shock to wind up in prison.”
    Thirteen years an Arlington , Va. , police officer, 11 years an attorney, Baker — now a dive instructor — spent six weeks in the Balsam Gut Prison in Tortola . His crime: fishing without a license in Atlantic waters, five miles off Tortola . BVI Magistrate Valerie Stephens fined Baker $45,000 for the infraction and sent him to jail for a year when he couldn’t pay the fine. He had just $600 in his bank account.
    On Nov. 6 BVI Governor David Pearey commuted the sentence to time served after a clemency review by the BVI Prerogative of Mercy Committee. USVI Governor John deJongh and the U.S. Consul General in Barbados interceded for Baker, and a media blitz railed against the big fine, usually reserved for commercial violators.
    “Richard’s is the first completely recreational boat that has been caught,” says Paige Passano, manager of Budget Marine, a St. Thomas chandlery where Baker’s partner, Deborah Barton, works. “He had no fish on board. He had no live bait. I’ve known [the couple] for two years, and in all that time I’ve known them to catch one fish — a small barracuda. They are not fishermen. The fine was absolutely ludicrous.”
    “We had no idea,” says Barton, 58, who was arrested with Baker Sept. 24 and spent one night in jail. “We thought this was just a fishing violation, and like anyplace else in the world they’d fine us a couple of hundred dollars, and we’d pay the fine and go home.”
    Not in the BVI, where fishing without a license can draw up to a $500,000 fine. Had they known that, Baker wouldn’t have pleaded guilty, Barton says.
    The couple, who live aboard in St. Thomas , thought they’d spend their day off cruising and fishing from their 36-foot Litton trawler, Mambo. Casual anglers at best, they figured they might find some fish if they followed the sportfishing fleet out toward the North Drop on Tortola’s Atlantic side, 17 miles off Jost Van Dyke. Mambo carries two spinning rods, and no downriggers or fighting chair. “We open the tackle box and say, ‘This looks like a pretty one. Let’s use that one.’ That’s our level of fishing,” Baker says.
    Mambo was making a modest 4 knots out to the North Drop with its single engine. “We dropped two lures in the water to see if we could catch something for dinner,” Barton says. “We were just enjoying a day on the ocean. We thought we were OK. We knew we were in BVI waters but thought if we went out three miles we didn’t need a license.”
    Unknown to many who fish only casually, BVI claims a 200-mile exclusive fishing zone, except where boundaries are set between neighboring countries. It requires all boats that fish in that zone to be licensed, according to a spokesman for the BVI Department of Environment and Fisheries and the BVI government Web site (British Virgin Islands Gateway to the Government).
    Barton says they hadn’t caught anything but were enjoying the peace when a speedboat approached and one of three men on board motioned for them to stop. None of the men was in uniform. “We tried to hail them on channel 16,” Barton says. “But we got no response. We thought they were pirates.” As it turned out, the speedboat’s radio wasn’t working.
    They pulled alongside and yelled out, “Do you have fishing licenses?” Seeing a badge on one of the men’s belts, the couple stopped and acknowledged that they didn’t have permits. Police processed them into a jail in Road Town about 7:30 p.m. They spent the night there and appeared in court at 9 a.m. By 9:30 they had pleaded guilty, Barton to using BVI waters without clearing Customs and Baker to failing to clear Customs and fishing without a license. They both were fined $1,000 for the Customs violations. Barton paid the fine and was released. Baker, the boat’s owner, was fined $45,000 more for the fishing violation. “By 10 [o’clock], Richard was on his way to prison,” Barton says.
    “[The conservation officers] had a law to enforce, and they did their job. I respect that,” Baker says, but he says the judge was unreasonable.
    The couple pleaded guilty, and when Baker told the court he didn’t realize he was violating BVI law and said a sportfishing license isn’t required at home in the USVI, the judge became visibly irritated, told him ignorance of the law is no excuse, and socked him with the fine, he says. When he said he didn’t have the money to pay it, she sent him to jail for a year.
    “This is way off the charts,” says Art Halpern, a St. Thomas businessman and USVI resident for 30 years. “A guy has a couple feathers in the water, and they lock him up for a year?”
    Halpern, owner of Caribbean Battery, a company with a lot of boating clients, says there has been a lot of grumbling in the USVI about their neighbor’s “crackdown” on visitors from the U.S. side of the Virgins. “It’s just very strange,” he says. “The whole thing boils down to the punishment fitting the crime. This is just mean and cruel.”
    Part of the problem is the failure of BVI fisheries law to satisfactorily distinguish between recreational and commercial fishermen, says Passano, the Budget Marine manager. “The BVI has had an issue with people from the USVI fishing in the BVI for a number of years,” she says. She says the BVI is conservation-minded; it wants to protect its fisheries. But the fisheries law — and the big fines — usually are used to punish commercial violators.
    Baker says there’s another problem: Many in the BVI resent that most sportfishing captains tie up in St. Thomas and spend their money there but do most of their fishing (95 percent, according to a 2005 study) at the North Drop in BVI waters. “I can understand where there is a concern, and it’s valid,” he says. Still, “The fine was outrageous.”
    Passano says deJongh has secured a commitment from the BVI to rewrite its fisheries law so there are different fines for non-commercial anglers. “The big fines really were for bigger commercial boats,” she says. “They’ve promised to change that.”
    Another issue she hopes will be clarified is when a boat must clear Customs before fishing BVI waters. She says it is clear a boat must go into port and clear Customs before fishing inside the 12-mile limit; it is not as clear that it must do the same to fish in the 200-mile zone. She says clarification of the law is important to both the U.S. and the British Virgins to encourage sport anglers to come and fish. “It’s off-season business,” she says. “We [and they] can’t turn it away.”
    Baker left the police force after a disabling collision between his police motorcycle and a car. He went on to graduate law school and became an attorney, then discovered diving. It was both enjoyable and therapeutic for his back injury, so he became a dive instructor, first in Mexico , where he met Barton, then in St. Thomas , where he’s been for two years.
    “We’re holding a job for him,” says Capt. Arnoldo Falcoff, Baker’s employer. Baker says he’s ready to go back to work.
    As a condition of his release, he had to write a letter of apology to the BVI governor for the licensing infraction — Baker said he is genuinely sorry he broke the law — but he also had to write an apology to the judge, who thought he had been disrespectful. Barton says he was, in fact, very respectful, but he bit his tongue and wrote the letter anyway.
    “I guarantee I’m not going fishing [in the BVI] again,” he says. “If [Deborah] has her way, we won’t go fishing at all again.”
    Last edited by 5000grapas; 25th February 2008 at 04:27. Reason: Formatting

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    Re: American jailed for fishing in the BVI

    Gov. John P. deJongh Jr's web site
    Governor welcomes home Richard Baker; Applauds clemency granted by BVI Government for USVI fisherman

    November 6, 2007
    Governor welcomes home Richard Baker; Applauds clemency granted by BVI Government for USVI fisherman
    Gov. John P. deJongh Jr. Tuesday expressed gratitude and appreciation to Premier Ralph O’Neal and the BVI Government on the granting of clemency for USVI fisherman, Richard Baker, upon his release from prison and return home to the territory.
    "I am heartened by Premier O’Neal’s leadership in extending diplomatic talks with my Administration and other entities in resolving this important matter. On behalf of the people of the U.S. Virgin Islands, I would like to express my sincere gratitude on this granting of clemency for one of our residents," deJongh said. "I am pleased that the warm relations we share as island neighbors have so deeply contributed to the release of Mr. Richard Baker, so that he may comfortably return home. His release is symbolic of the cooperative dialogue between our two communities and our shared commitment to working together towards improving the standard and quality of life for all Virgin Islanders," deJongh continued.
    Richard Baker, a 54-year-old former police officer from Arlington, Virginia, was sentenced to one year in prison after he and his wife, Deborah Barton, were caught fishing on September 24, 2007 in BVI waters without a permit. Baker was charged with unlicensed fishing and illegal entry, a fine totaling $46,000; he has served six weeks of his twelve-month sentence in Tortola’s Balsam Ghut prison. Although Baker pled guilty to the charges filed, he and his wife had initially indicated that they had not caught any fish, and had not been aware that they were relaxing in BVI waters.
    Under the British Virgin Islands Constitution, the BVI Governor may grant clemency or issue a pardon on a case-by-case basis. While clemency power rests with BVI Governor David Pearey, the Governor first hears from an Advisory Committee, the "Prerogative of Mercy Committee," which he calls into session, comprised of the BVI Attorney General, the Director of Health Services, as well as four other members of the community before making a final decision. Governor Pearey was installed in April 2006, and this is his first granting of the clemency power.
    "While I am proud of the BVI Government’s cooperation in releasing Richard Baker and returning him home, I invite Premier O’Neal and his team to clarify the laws on this issue so that we may work together in putting forward the best cooperative agreements regarding our Virgin Islands waterways, and in service to the rightful protection of all residents in both communities," deJongh said. "As neighbors, we are blessed to share an ongoing friendship, and I look forward to continuing the discussion with Premier O’Neal in continuing to bring progress to our two communities," deJongh continued.
    October 20, 2007 was officially recognized as "U.S.V.I. / B.V.I. Friendship Day" in the territory." Premier O’Neal and the BVI delegation visited St. Thomas to participate in traditional Friendship Day activities, along with Gov. deJongh, his wife, Cecile, members of the Administration, and hundreds of U.S.V.I. and B.V.I. residents.

  3. #3
    RBW Member osiris is a splendid one to behold osiris is a splendid one to behold osiris is a splendid one to behold osiris is a splendid one to behold osiris is a splendid one to behold osiris is a splendid one to behold osiris is a splendid one to behold osiris is a splendid one to behold osiris is a splendid one to behold osiris is a splendid one to behold osiris is a splendid one to behold osiris's Avatar
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    Re: American jailed for fishing in the BVI

    Quote Originally Posted by 5000grapas  View Original Post
    As a condition of his release, he had to write a letter of apology to the BVI governor for the licensing infraction — Baker said he is genuinely sorry he broke the law — but he also had to write an apology to the judge, who thought he had been disrespectful. Barton says he was, in fact, very respectful, but he bit his tongue and wrote the letter anyway.
    “I guarantee I’m not going fishing [in the BVI] again,” he says. “If [Deborah] has her way, we won’t go fishing at all again.”
    Fascinating, he breaks the law, treats a country's sovereign waters with contempt and then whinges when he gets nailed. He got treated better than a lot of us get treated who have made the mistake of being transit through the US to Europe - finger prints, photos - and we haven't broken any laws. I am pretty darn sure that I had've cruised into US waters stuck my rod in water and started fishing I'd have a coast guard cutter so far up me jacksie I'd have been pooing tinned sailers - after I'd have been shot up by some heavies on a 20 Mike-mike - and I would probably still be in the slammer. Were he my mate, I'd tell him not to come the raw prawn and get over it.

  4. #4
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    Re: American jailed for fishing in the BVI

    Quote Originally Posted by osiris  View Original Post
    Fascinating, he breaks the law, treats a country's sovereign waters with contempt and then whinges when he gets nailed. He got treated better than a lot of us get treated who have made the mistake of being transit through the US to Europe - finger prints, photos - and we haven't broken any laws. I am pretty darn sure that I had've cruised into US waters stuck my rod in water and started fishing I'd have a coast guard cutter so far up me jacksie I'd have been pooing tinned sailers - after I'd have been shot up by some heavies on a 20 Mike-mike - and I would probably still be in the slammer. Were he my mate, I'd tell him not to come the raw prawn and get over it.
    That's right Dave
    but we are not part of teh country of the priveledged and the free.

    However not enough reason for me to admire them, i just adjusted the way i am flying to europe - use teh asia route - better diving here anyway.

    cheers
    christian

    PS - how are your kiss-handsets coming along ?
    r u up for the lake maybe this weekend ? I have sorb for 90 minutes to burn off

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    RBW Member mempilot has a reputation beyond repute mempilot has a reputation beyond repute mempilot has a reputation beyond repute mempilot has a reputation beyond repute mempilot has a reputation beyond repute mempilot has a reputation beyond repute mempilot has a reputation beyond repute mempilot has a reputation beyond repute mempilot has a reputation beyond repute mempilot has a reputation beyond repute mempilot has a reputation beyond repute mempilot's Avatar
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    Re: American jailed for fishing in the BVI

    Quote Originally Posted by osiris  View Original Post
    Fascinating, he breaks the law, treats a country's sovereign waters with contempt and then whinges when he gets nailed. He got treated better than a lot of us get treated who have made the mistake of being transit through the US to Europe - finger prints, photos - and we haven't broken any laws. I am pretty darn sure that I had've cruised into US waters stuck my rod in water and started fishing I'd have a coast guard cutter so far up me jacksie I'd have been pooing tinned sailers - after I'd have been shot up by some heavies on a 20 Mike-mike - and I would probably still be in the slammer. Were he my mate, I'd tell him not to come the raw prawn and get over it.
    This comment is the stupidest thing I've ever read on RBW.

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    Re: American jailed for fishing in the BVI

    All you need is love, all you need is love,
    All you need is love, love, love is all you need.
    All you need is love (all together now)
    All you need is love (everybody, Dr. Mike you too)
    All you need is love, love, love is all you need ...

    :p

  7. #7
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    Re: American jailed for fishing in the BVI

    Quote Originally Posted by divelermentov  View Original Post
    That's right Dave
    but we are not part of teh country of the priveledged and the free.

    However not enough reason for me to admire them, i just adjusted the way i am flying to europe - use teh asia route - better diving here anyway.

    cheers
    christian

    PS - how are your kiss-handsets coming along ?
    r u up for the lake maybe this weekend ? I have sorb for 90 minutes to burn off
    Tee, hee, d'ya think they've worked it out yet mate?

    Don't talk to me about KISS handsets - those handsets are shockers. Still sweating on the Shearwater no ETA yet. In extreme withdrawal at the moment. I'm desparte to the point of asking Grant to please please give me an inspo trainign course! (oh and can I borrow his inspo (*grin*).

  8. #8
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    Re: American jailed for fishing in the BVI

    Quote Originally Posted by mempilot  View Original Post
    This comment is the stupidest thing I've ever read on Rebreather World.

    Why, because he's Amewicam? Is there a special "we can do anything we want" law that he is somehow entitled to claim the protection of, that the rest of us haven't been privy to?

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    Re: American jailed for fishing in the BVI

    Quote Originally Posted by osiris  View Original Post
    Why, because he's Amewicam? Is there a special "we can do anything we want" law that he is somehow entitled to claim the protection of, that the rest of us haven't been privy to?
    Have you been kicked in the head by too many sheep in your day or what?

    I'm not talking about the story. I'm talking about your post in response to the story.

    Granted, the guy fishing without a license was at fault, but you being a jackass is a much worse offense.

    Now, take your sheep's hind legs out of your boots and go dive or something.

  10. #10
    Nutty dentist - uwdriller divelermentov is a glorious beacon of light divelermentov is a glorious beacon of light divelermentov is a glorious beacon of light divelermentov is a glorious beacon of light divelermentov is a glorious beacon of light divelermentov is a glorious beacon of light divelermentov is a glorious beacon of light divelermentov is a glorious beacon of light divelermentov is a glorious beacon of light divelermentov is a glorious beacon of light divelermentov is a glorious beacon of light divelermentov's Avatar
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    Re: American jailed for fishing in the BVI

    Quote Originally Posted by mempilot  View Original Post
    Have you been kicked in the head by too many sheep in your day or what?

    I'm not talking about the story. I'm talking about your post in response to the story.

    Granted, the guy fishing without a license was at fault, but you being a jackass is a much worse offense.

    Now, take your sheep's hind legs out of your boots and go dive or something.
    slowly mate slowly

    here down under we might have more sheep than people, doesn't mean that the rest of the world can try to ride on it (excuse the pan).

    the only thing dave was saying is for heavens sake stop winching and when in rome do like the romans do,
    but wait, yeah that's right - eurpean history or as a matter of fact knowledge about anything non american is not the strongest thing in your education systems, is t.

    On another note, whats about just stay home and stop bothering everyone else on this planet.

    But for now dave, lets leave the yanks alone, they are nearly crying anyway, maybe they toughen up when they are a bit older.

    Grin- asking grant for his unit - good try mate, don't think he lets his baby out of site, think it even lives in his bedroom.
    But hey Pete might be able to help you out with a vision or two

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