Crimes on cruise ships on the high seas often fall into jurisdictional no-man’s lands where prosecutions are impossible to pursue.
But yesterday a judge in Orange County, California ruled that local prosecutors can try a criminal case against a cruise passenger accused of strangling his ex-wife and tossing her off a cruise ship in Italy seven years ago.
The Orange County Register reports the Orange County judge ruled Wednesday that California law does not prevent prosecutors from handling cases which arise outside of California.
In a case we have mentioned before, cruise passenger Lonnie Kocontes was arrested in February for killing his ex-wife for financial gain. Kocontes and Micki Kanesaki, although divorced, lived together in California and went on a cruise together in 2006. She went overboard in the Mediterranean Sea. Her body washed ashore the next day and the coroner found evidence that she had been strangled before going into the water.
When Kocontes returned to California, he began transferring more than $1 million from Kanesaki’s bank accounts.
The judge’s ruling is significant because typically state prosecutors do not have jurisdiction to pursue criminal case when the crime occurs outside state territorial waters. The exception to this general rule is Florida which enacted a state law which permits the state to prosecute criminal on the high seas when the cruise leaves a port in Florida.
You can read our prior article here: Cruise Ship Passenger Pleads Not Guilty of Strangling His Ex-Wife & Throwing Her Overboard