Sept. 5, 2003 – A court magistrate in the British Virgin Islands on Friday postponed the trial of two St. Thomas men charged in June with illegal fishing in B.V.I. waters.
Scott Niddrie and Jimmy Estraca, owner and captain, respectively, of the St. Thomas sportfishing boat Black Pearl, appeared in court for the first time since the vessel was seized by B.V.I. Conservation and Fisheries officers on June 13 in B.V.I. waters. Their appearance was brief, however.
Niddrie told Magistrate Gail Charles that the law firm representing them, J.S. Archibald and Co., had withdrawn from the case.
Charles postponed the case until Oct. 29 to give the defendants time to secure new representation.
Even if their attorneys had been in place, however, the trial would not have gotten off the ground on Friday. Prosecutor David Abednego said his office had just received the case file from police and was therefore not ready to proceed.
When the case is called again next month, Niddrie and Estraca will be asked to enter pleas to the charges. The Black Pearl was one of about 13 boats fishing on the North Drop as part of the June Moon fishing tournament organized by the V.I. Game Fishing Club. B.V.I. authorities charge that the boat and those aboard did not have a valid license and registration to fish in the B.V.I. at the time.
If convicted of fishing without a license and registration, Niddrie and Estraca could face fines of up to $500,000. The 38-foot boat was detained at the B.V.I. Police Marine Base at Road Reef until July 24, when Niddrie posted a $15,000 bond with the court, allowing the vessel to be released.
Meanwhile, the continuation of another illegal fishing case involving St. Thomas residents has been postponed until Oct. 6 because the lead prosecutor, Evans Welch, is the B.V.I. acting attorney general and was unable to be present at court.
Brothers Rick and Jason Berry of St. Thomas were arrested on Oct. 15, 2002, at West End, Tortola, as they prepared to offload 200 pounds of fish. B.V.I. authorities charged that the pair did not have a valid license and registration.
The brothers have pleaded not guilty to the charges. Rick Berry gave evidence when the case was last heard, in July. Jason Berry is expected to testify when it resumes next month.
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