Linda O’Leary found not guilty in deadly Lake Joseph boat crash

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A judge has acquitted Linda O’Leary of a non-criminal charge of reckless operation of a boat in the 2019 collision that killed two on a cottage country lake, a playground for the rich and famous. is referred to as.

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After a high-profile trial this summer in Parry Sound, Ont., Justice Richard Humphrey found on Tuesday that the Crown had failed to establish that she was sailing her boat recklessly. O’Leary is married to TV celebrity and businessman Kevin O’Leary, who was with her at the time of the accident at Joseph Lake on the night of August 24, 2019.

Linda O’Leary was charged under the Canada Shipping Act. He was fined up to $10,000.

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Reading out his ruling on Tuesday morning, Humphrey said he found that “alcohol played no role” in the operation of O’Leary’s boat, nor could he determine how fast the ship was traveling. Was, “too little that it was excessive.”

The collision happened around 11:30 pm when O’Lears returned to his hut after attending a dinner party less than five kilometers away. Linda was behind the wheel of the O’Leary family ski boat when she collided with the Super Air Nautic, a large boat that had stalled so passengers could stare.

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A key question in the trial – and in a series of civil lawsuits – is whether that boat’s navigation lights were off. Humphrey concluded that Nautik’s lights were not actually lit.

Defense attorney Brian Greenspan argued that his client had been the target of a “misleading prosecution” and that the evidence overwhelmingly showed that Nautik did not have the lighting required. The operator of Nautic had previously pleaded guilty to failing to display a navigational light.

Linda O’Leary did not testify. Her husband testified from Los Angeles, where he is a series regular on the popular TV show Shark Tank. He was not in court on Tuesday, but he could be seen explaining the proceedings via Zoom.

In their closing arguments, prosecutors argued his testimony, in which he described the trip home “on a plane” in pitch darkness, amounted to a “confession” that his wife was plying the boat recklessly.

Prosecutors alleged that O’Leary violated the Shipping Act by operating the ship at excessive speed on a pitch black night, regardless of “what may or may not happen in front of you”. Crown Attorney Samir Adam told the judge that even though the nautic lights were out at the time of the collision, O’Leary’s driving conduct was still reckless. His decision on Tuesday clearly ruled out this position.

Gary Poltash, 64, of Florida died on the spot, while Suzanne Brito, 48, of Uxbridgde, Ontario, died a few days later.

There are various pending civil litigation related to the accident.

Federal prosecutors initially said O’Leary could face a $1 million fine and 18 months in prison if convicted. Greenspan said that from the outset, prosecutors were misunderstood about the possible punishment.

After a careful review of the act, the Crown determined that the Public Prosecution Service’s initial position on the maximum allowable penalty was not accurate, a PPSC spokesperson wrote in an email.

Betsy Powell is a Toronto-based reporter who covers crime and the courts for the Star. Follow him on Twitter: @powellbetsy



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