A judge has rejected a pair of motions to dismiss charges against a Camden man who is accused of negligence that contributed to the 2015 death of a crew member aboard his sailboat.

An attorney for Rick Smith, 66, filed one motion to dismiss the indictment for vindictive prosecution and another motion to dismiss for bringing the indictment in an improper venue.

U.S. District Judge Curtis Gomez in the Virgin Islands denied both, which means the case is likely headed for trial unless a plea agreement is reached.

Smith, who has been charged under a little-used statute known as seaman’s manslaughter, faces up to 10 years in prison in connection with the death of 54-year-old David Pontious of Beaufort, North Carolina.

The incident happened in October 2015 aboard Smith’s 43-foot, two-masted sailboat Cimarron. Smith is licensed to operate charters out of both Camden and the U.S. Virgin Islands and was sailing south, something he does every winter. The Cimarron picked up Pontious in North Carolina after another crew member had to leave. Four days later, the voyage turned deadly.

According to court documents and investigative reports, Pontious was seasick from the beginning and grew increasingly agitated, even hallucinatory. His behavior culminated in a standoff with Smith more than 300 miles from land. Pontious attacked Smith as he was steering the boat. Two other crew members assisted in pulling the man off the captain. Pontious then climbed to the edge and jumped from the Cimarron into the Atlantic Ocean.

Smith didn’t turn the boat around, throw a life ring or deploy his emergency radio beacon. It wasn’t until the next day that he had enough signal to contact the Coast Guard.

Smith continued sailing the Cimarron to St. John in the U.S. Virgin Islands. He and the other crew members were interviewed by Coast Guard investigators.

However, it wasn’t until two and a half years later that Smith was charged. He has been under house arrest in the Virgin Islands since November.

This month, federal prosecutors have begun to lay out their case in a series of court filings.

Two maritime experts are prepared to testify that Smith both failed to do enough to prevent Pontious from jumping to his death and also failed to follow protocol after he went over. Investigators have learned that Smith, at some point after Pontoius’s death but before reaching port, threw overboard a gun and a bag of marijuana.

Smith’s attorney, Michael Sheesley, plans to call a rebuttal expert who will testify that there was nothing Smith or any of the other crew members could have done to prevent Pontious’ death.

Pontious’ doctor also has been asked to testify by prosecutors. In written remarks, Clark Trask called Pontious a “kind, thoughtful, peaceful, quiet and gentle type of person.”

“It would have been a terrifying transformation from that stable person to the clearly sick individual that walked off the boat hallucinating and distressed,” he wrote.

Eric Russell can be contacted at 791-6344 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: PPHEricRussell

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