Tugboat owner enters not guilty plea to felony charges

The owner of the historic tugboat that sank last October in Eagle Harbor and spilled hundreds of gallons of fuel into Puget Sound entered a plea of not guilty to three felony charges Wednesday in Kitsap County Superior Court.

Anthony Royce Smith, the owner of the 100-year-old tug "Chickamauga," was charged earlier this month by the Washington State Attorney General's Office with one count of first-degree theft, one charge of causing a vessel to become abandoned or derelict and one count of discharge of polluting matters into state waters.

The charges were the first in recent history to be filed by the state of Washington for environmental crimes involving derelict vessels, and were prompted by the sinking of the "Chickamauga" in its mooring at the Eagle Harbor Marina on Oct. 2.

Authorities claim Smith abandoned the old tugboat at the marina on Bainbridge Island, failed to pay moorage fees for the vessel and ignored requests by the harbormaster to address the failing condition of his boat.

When the vessel sank, it leaked more than 200 gallons of diesel fuel into the harbor and resulted in a clean-up effort that cost approximately $150,000.

Smith, who works in Alaska as a fisherman, entered his not guilty plea during a 10-minute appearance before Superior Court Judge Leila Mills. Smith also asked for permission to leave the state as the court case continues.

The request was supported by Assistant Attorney General Joshua Choate.

"He does have no record and has been communicative with law enforcement in this case," Choate said.

Mills granted the request, with the requirement that Smith sign an extradition waiver.

The trial has been set for April 21.


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