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Seizure of Colombian Ships Ruled Improper


September-October 1994

In two separate cases, the seizure procedure of the U.S. Coast Guard has led to problems in the prosecution of Colombians in drug cases ("Drug Cases Sink on Ship Seizures?" National Law Journal, Oct. 10, 1994, p. A6). In both cases the Colombian government claims it did not give the required permission to board and seize the ships.

Early in 1994, a judge dismissed a case against the four crew members of the Colombian ship Angie. The Colombian government did not give permission for the U.S. to seize the vessel, the court ruled, and Angie and its crew should have been turned over to the Colombian government (U.S. v. Newball, 93-10024).

In the other case, U.S. officials boarded the Sanson, arresting the crew and impounding the ship in Key West, Florida. The five crew members' first trial was declared a mistrial when the jury could not reach a verdict on the possession with intent to distribute and conspiracy charges (U.S. v. Daswell, 93-10018). In a second trial, the jury returned a conviction just five minutes before the judge was poised to declare another mistrial. The defense is using similar arguments to appeal the Sanson case as were used in the Angie case.