Two days ago we reported on a ruling made by a judge in California holding that a cruise ship passenger accused of strangling and throwing his former wife overboard from a cruise ship in Italy could be prosecuted in state court.
But yesterday, the same judge reconsidered his ruling and decided that he did not have jurisdiction over the criminal case filed against Lonnie Kocontes and dismissed the murder charges. The prosecutors then promptly re-filed charges against Kocontes, in an effort to keep him in jail in Orange County, California for allegedly murdering his ex-wife, Micki Kanesaki.
We hailed the judge’s original ruling as significant because state prosecutors usually do not have jurisdiction to pursue criminal case when the crime occurs outside state territorial waters. The alleged crime involving Kocontes occurred during a cruise from Italy raising the issue whether the criminal prosecution should be pursued in Italy, or in a federal court in the U.S. or in state court in California. The judge’s latest ruling, that California has no jurisdiction, illustrates the problem prosecuting criminals on cruise ships on the high seas.
The case leaves me wondering whether Kocontes, a lawyer, researched the issue of maritime jurisdiction over cruise ship crimes before going on vacation with his ex-wife who had over a million dollars in her accounts in California.
Photo Credit: Orange County Register