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January 10, 2006

S.I. ferry case sentences

Edward R. Korman, the chief judge in United States District Court in Brooklyn, yesterday sentenced Richard J. Smith to 18 months in prison and Patrick Ryan to one year and one day for their parts in the 2003 Staten Island Ferry tragedy that cost eleven lines. Smith was the pilot who passed out at the helm of the ferry. Ryan was the ferry supervisor who failed to enforce a New York City rule requiring that two pilots be in the wheelhouse of the ferry when docking.

The sentences handed down yesterday were close to federal guidelines that indicated a range of 12 to 18 months for Smith and six to 12 months for Ryan. Judge Korman did not take the suggestion of a probation official that three months would be appropriate for Smith and six months for Ryan. Nor did he accede to a prosecution request for sentences longer than those in the guidelines.

Judge Korman also heard arguments on another key aspect of the case: a request to limit civil claims to a total of $14.4 million, under a provision of admiralty law. The judge has yet to rule on that issue.