A judge acquitted Linda O’Leary of the non-criminal charge of recklessly driving a boat in a collision in 2019 that killed two people on a countryside lake known as a playground for the rich and famous .
Following a high-profile trial this summer in Parry Sound, Ont., Judge Richard Humphrey found Tuesday that the Crown had failed to establish that she was operating her boat negligently. O’Leary is married to television celebrity and businessman Kevin O’Leary, who was with her at the time of the August 24, 2019 nighttime crash on Lake Joseph.
Linda O’Leary has been charged under the Canada Shipping Act. She faced a fine of up to $ 10,000.
Reading his decision on Tuesday morning, Humphrey said he had found that “alcohol played no role” in O’Leary’s operation of his boat, nor could he determine how fast. the ship was moving, “let alone excessive”.
The collision happened at around 11:30 p.m. as the O’Learys were returning to their cabin after attending a dinner party less than three miles away. Linda O’Leary was at the wheel of the family ski boat when it collided with a Super Air Nautique, a large boat that had come to a stop for passengers to watch the stars.
A key question at trial – and in a series of civil lawsuits – is whether this boat had its navigation lights off. Humphrey concluded that the Nautical’s lights were in fact not on.
Defense attorney Brian Greenspan argued his client had been the target of an “ill-advised prosecution” and the evidence overwhelmingly showed that the Nautique did not turn on its lights as required. The operator of the Nautique had previously pleaded guilty to failing to display a navigation light.
Linda O’Leary did not testify. Her husband testified from Los Angeles, where he is a regular on the popular Shark Tank television series. He wasn’t in court on Tuesday, but he could be seen calling for proceedings via zoom.
In their closing arguments, prosecutors argued that his testimony, in which he described the return trip “by plane” in total darkness, amounted to an “admission” that his wife piloted the boat negligently.
Prosecutors alleged that O’Leary broke shipping law by piloting the ship at excessive speed on a pitch black night without considering “what may or may not be in front of you.” Even though the Nautical’s lights were out at the time of the collision, O’Leary’s driving was still reckless, Crown Prosecutor Samir Adam told the judge. His decision on Tuesday clearly repudiated that position.
Gary Poltash, 64, of Florida, died at the scene, while Suzanne Brito, 48, of Uxbridgde, Ont., Died a few days later.
There are several ongoing civil lawsuits related to the accident.
Federal prosecutors initially said O’Leary could face a fine of $ 1 million and 18 months in jail if found guilty. Greenspan said from the start, prosecutors were wrong about the potential sanction.
After careful consideration of the law, the Crown determined that the Public Prosecution Service of Canada’s initial position on maximum permissible sentences was not accurate, a PPSC spokesperson wrote in an email.