A passenger attacked and severely injured his girlfriend ten days ago onboard the Norwegian Breakaway, according to court filings in a criminal case filed in San Juan, Puerto Rico.
An affidavit of an FBI agent who investigated the incident filed together with the criminal complaint* in the case of U.S. v. Smiley (case number 3:19-mj-02201-SCC) alleges that:
On November 4, 2019 at around 3:45 A.M., cruise passenger and Texas resident Jeff Smiley III was cruising aboard the NCL cruise ship with his girlfriend of seven months when they got into an argument over money. The argument turned into a confrontation in the casino. His girlfriend tried to remove herself from the argument and attempted to walk away. She called for security and continued to walk toward an elevator.
Surveillance video shows Smiley following the woman into the elevator. The argument continued and Smiley reportedly struck the woman in the face and knocked her glasses to the floor.
The woman attempted to get away from Smiley when the elevator doors opened. Smiley allegedly threw the woman to the floor and struck her with his elbow. She tried to flee again and Smiley tackled her down a flight of stairs and continued to beat her, causing serious injuries. A statement published by the FBI states that Smiley broke the woman’s jaw and arm.
The shipboard medical team reportedly treated the woman for the fractures as well as multiple abrasions and bruises.
At around 10:10 A.M., approximately seven hours later, Smiley underwent a breathalyzer test which reportedly showed a blood-alcohol level of .099.
FBI agents (of the Violent Crimes Squad) with the assistance of the U.S. Coast Guard boarded the cruise ship as it was approaching San Juan.
Smiley provided a statement to the FBI agents and reportedly confessed to the attack. The Department of Justice (DOJ) arrested him on charges of violating Title 18 United States Code, Section 113(7) (assaults within maritime and territorial jurisdiction; assault resulting in a substantial bodily injury to a spouse or intimate partner).
The federal court judge in San Juan denied Smiley bond and ordered that he remain detained until trial, finding that the U.S. government proved by clear and convincing evidence that there are no conditions of release which will reasonably assure the safety of any other person or the public. The Court also found as other grounds for detention: the “strong” weight of evidence against Smiley, his “prior criminal history,” and his “history of alcohol or substance abuse.”
NCL cruise ships have a reputation for having perhaps the most closed circuit television cameras (CCTV) on its cruise ships than any other fleet of ships. NCL has surveillance cameras in passenger hallways and elevators, unlike most cruise lines. NCL also has “surveillance operators” on its ships who are suppose to “conduct real time monitoring of Ship/passenger/crew Safety and Security,” among other job duties. The NCL surveillance operators are also required to “immediately report to the bridge any real time security and safety observations that may place the ship, passengers, or crew in jeopardy.”
It remains to be seen whether such an operator was monitoring the surveillance cameras at the time of the alleged crime and why ship security did not intervene into the confrontation before the woman was severely beaten.
Earlier this year (in April), the DOJ filed charges against another passenger caught on a surveillance camera video aboard a NCL cruise ship dragging a woman down the length of a passenger hallway and then beating her. According to Newsweek, the shipboard CCTV video shows the woman violently slap and repeatedly punch a woman on the Norwegian Gem, rendering her unconscious.
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Photo credit: Ad Meskens – CC BY-SA 4.0, commons / wikimedia.
*The FBI statement says: “The public is reminded a complaint contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. Defendants are presumed to be innocent until and unless proven guilty. The U.S. government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.”