UPDATE: Jury returns verdict of not guilty in tugboat trial - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

UPDATE: Jury returns verdict of not guilty in tugboat trial

Posted: Updated:
CHATTANOOGA, TN (WRCB) -
Channel 3 Eyewitness News reporter Sara Sidery is covering this case tweeting live from the courtroom.
Follow her on Twitter
@SaraSideryWRCB.


UPDATE:  The man at the center of a deadly boating incident has learned his fate.  Our continuous coverage of the trial of a towboat captain winds down.  

Warren Luetke was found not guilty on all counts. He took the stand Friday in his own defense against the charges of criminally negligent homicide.

Tim Spidle and Richard Wilkey were killed in June 2010, when the tugboat Luetke was operating hit their fishing boat.

"I'm glad it's over," said Luetke.

The words of Warren Luetke: glad it's all over. After a jury took just 40 minutes finding him "not guilty" on all counts.

There were tears and hugs on the side of the defense. After the unanimous verdict came down.

"An accident happened, and sometimes that does happen. But at the end of the day he wasn't criminally negligent, and the jury sided with us," said Samuel Hudson, Luetke's attorney.

"We're disappointed, we believed in the case," said Cameron Williams, Prosecutor.

The state argued Luetke had a duty to maintain a proper lookout. Even though there's no set rule that requires a towboat pilot to post one at all times.

The intoxicated fishermen were in a boat that wasn't working right. But prosecutors say that negligence wasn't relevant to luetke's charges.

"The victims' negligence and their actions didn't excuse Mr. Luetke's inability to see them out on the river," said Williams.

"They were a little bit less responsible than the tugboat operator," said Hudson.

Melvin Wilkey, Richard Wilkey's older brother, sat in the trial all week.

"It turned out what I figured it'd turn out," said Melvin Wilkey, victim's brother.

Earlier in the week, the US Coast Guard testified the same rules apply to all boats on the water.

Whether it's a towboat operator or a small fishing vessel, everyone assumes the same responsibilities.

Channel 3 asked Luetke's attorney if he thought it was uncalled for from the beginning?

"Well I don't really wanna comment on how it played out. I know in the end, I think justice has been served," said Hudson.

Wilkey's family on the other hand say it'll be tough to move on.

"I ain't got no closure from it. None whatsoever, there's too many things that don't add up," said Wilkey.

PREVIOUS STORY: Monday morning, after deliberating for only 40 minutes, the jury returned a verdict of not guilty for Charles Luetke, the towboat operator charged in the deaths of two fishermen.  

Charles Luetke, the pilot of the towboat is charged with two counts of criminally negligent homicide in the June 2010 incident.

The case took a week for both sides to make their case to the jury.
 
Luetke was operating a 671-foot barge down the Tennessee River, when he struck the fishing boat.

Officials say Luetke was the pilot of a towboat that collided with a small fishing boat.  

52-year-old Richard Wilkey and 45-year-old Tim Spidle were killed. Both had alcohol in their systems.  

Wilkey's nephew survived the crash, and testified in court this week.          

Meanwhile prosecutors say Luetke was negligent because he didn't keep a lookout for other boats in the area.  

They say he had plenty of opportunities to avoid a crash.  

 A conviction of criminally negligent homicide carries a 1-to-6 year sentence, depending on the client's criminal history.

Leutke has no previous charges.  

Stay with Channel 3 and WRCBtv.com for the latest to this story
  • NewsMore>>

  • Eclipse weather forecast: Best in West, least in East

    Eclipse weather forecast: Best in West, least in East

    Monday, August 21 2017 1:46 PM EDT2017-08-21 17:46:28 GMT
    If you want good eclipse watching weather, Oregon and Idaho look like the best spot.More
    If you want good eclipse watching weather, Oregon and Idaho look like the best spot.More
  • What the Tech? Eclipse Megamovie

    What the Tech? Eclipse Megamovie

    Monday, August 21 2017 1:12 PM EDT2017-08-21 17:12:20 GMT

    The solar eclipse will likely be the most photographed event in history as millions of people with smartphone cameras in hand won't be able to resist snapping a picture. What do you do with those photos? Google is teaming up with a university and scientists to make a movie of the eclipse using photos uploaded to its site.

    More

    The solar eclipse will likely be the most photographed event in history as millions of people with smartphone cameras in hand won't be able to resist snapping a picture. What do you do with those photos? Google is teaming up with a university and scientists to make a movie of the eclipse using photos uploaded to its site.

    More
  • Ole Miss to open drug, alcohol abuse center

    Ole Miss to open drug, alcohol abuse center

    Monday, August 21 2017 1:06 PM EDT2017-08-21 17:06:38 GMT
    William Magee (Source: University of Mississippi)William Magee (Source: University of Mississippi)

    A new program at the University of Mississippi hopes to reduce drug and alcohol abuse.

    More

    A new program at the University of Mississippi hopes to reduce drug and alcohol abuse.

    More
Powered by Frankly