The state has challenged Joseph Hazelwood's assertion that he should have been immune from prosecution in the Exxon Valdez oil spill case because he reported the spill.
Assistant District Attorney Sam Adams argued in a brief filed Friday that, while the former tanker captain reported the grounding of the Exxon Valdez and the resulting oil spill in a single radio transmission, it constituted two separate reports.
For that reason, Adams said, the immunity Hazelwood received under federal law for reporting the spill doesn't extend to the notification of the tanker's grounding.
Hazelwood, of Huntington, N.Y., was the captain of the Exxon Valdez when it crashed into a charted reef in Prince William Sound in March 1989. About 11 million gallons of oil spilled into the sound.
He was found guilty on a misdemeanor count of negligent discharge of oil as a result of the grounding. The jury acquitted him of felony criminal mischief and two other misdemeanors: reckless endangerment and operating a vessel while intoxicated.
During the trial, Superior Court Judge Karl Johnstone agreed with the state that the report of the grounding and the report of the spill were separate.
Adams said Friday that the immunity law is intended for small spills that would otherwise go undetected, rather than a spill on the scale of the Exxon Valdez, which he said would have inevitably been discovered.
"(Hazelwood's attorneys) are taking an oil spill statute for granting immunity and applying it to a situation that it wasn't intended for," he said.
Adams also refuted Hazelwood's claims that blood and urine samples were illegally taken from him, and that he was proven guilty only of carelessness, rather than criminal negligence.
Hazelwood's attorneys in Alaska couldn't be reached for comment Friday on the state's response to the appeal, but in their appeal they argued that Hazelwood should be given another trial to determine if criminal negligence was involved.
Adams stated in his brief that only civil negligence, which requires no proof of criminal intent, needed to be proven in order to convict Hazelwood of the illegal oil discharge.
As part of his appeal, Hazelwood also asked the appeals court to throw out his sentence of 1,000 hours of community service cleaning oiled shorelines in Prince William Sound. His attorneys have called the sentence "excessive" and said it resulted partly because of the widespread publicity associated with the case.
Johnstone offered Hazelwood that sentence in lieu of 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.
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