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Attorneys for Baltimore seek to keep crew members from bridge collapse ship from returning home

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Attorneys for Baltimore seek to keep crew members from bridge collapse ship from returning home
News

News

Attorneys for Baltimore seek to keep crew members from bridge collapse ship from returning home

2024-06-19 07:55 Last Updated At:08:01

Baltimore (AP) — Attorneys are asking a federal judge to prevent crew members on the cargo ship Dali from returning to their home countries amid ongoing investigations into the circumstances leading up to the deadly collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in March.

Eight of the Dali’s crew members were scheduled to debark the ship and return home as early as Thursday, according to emails included in court filings Tuesday. The roughly two dozen total seafarers hail from India and Sri Lanka.

That would mark the first time any of them can leave the ship since it lost power and crashed into one of the bridge’s supporting columns shortly after leaving Baltimore on March 26.

In the court filings, attorneys representing the City of Baltimore said the men should remain in the U.S. so they can be deposed in ongoing civil litigation over who should be held responsible for covering costs and damages resulting from the bridge collapse, which killed six construction workers and temporarily halted most maritime traffic through Baltimore’s busy port.

“The crew consists entirely of foreign nationals who, of course, have critical knowledge and information about the events giving rise to this litigation,” attorneys wrote. “If they are permitted to leave the United States, Claimants may never have the opportunity to question or depose them.”

The petition requested an emergency hearing on the matter. No ruling has been issued in response.

Darrell Wilson, a spokesperson for the ship’s owner, said Tuesday evening that some crew members are scheduled to leave.

“A portion of the crew are going home and a portion are remaining here to assist with the investigation,” he said in a text message.

Wilson said he was unable to provide additional details about how many crew members were leaving and when. He also said he wasn’t sure when the ship itself would leave Baltimore for Norfolk, Virginia, where it will receive more extensive repairs.

The hulking container ship remained pinned amid the wreckage of the fallen bridge for almost two months while workers removed thousands and thousands of tons of mangled steel and concrete from the bottom of the Patapsco River at the entrance to Baltimore’s harbor.

The ship’s crew remained onboard even when explosives were detonated to break apart fallen bridge trusses and free the vessel from a massive steel span that landed across its bow.

The ongoing civil litigation began with a petition from the ship’s owner and manager, two Singapore-based companies, seeking to limit their legal liability for the deadly disaster.

A National Transportation Safety Board investigation found the ship experienced two power outages in the hours before it left the Port of Baltimore. In the moments before the bridge collapse, it lost power again and veered off course. The agency’s investigation is still ongoing to determine what exactly caused the electrical issues.

The FBI also launched a criminal investigation.

According to the emails included in Tuesday’s court filings, the eight crew members scheduled to return home have already been interviewed by Department of Justice investigators and that the department doesn’t object to their departure. The crew members will fly out of Baltimore “likely on or about June 20th,” an attorney for the ship’s owner and manager wrote.

FILE - Explosive charges are detonated to bring down sections of the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge resting on the container ship Dali, May 13, 2024, in Baltimore. The main shipping channel into Baltimore's port has fully reopened to its original depth and width following the March 26 collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, according to officials Monday, June 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File)

FILE - Explosive charges are detonated to bring down sections of the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge resting on the container ship Dali, May 13, 2024, in Baltimore. The main shipping channel into Baltimore's port has fully reopened to its original depth and width following the March 26 collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, according to officials Monday, June 10, 2024. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File)

The container ship Dali is docked at a slip at the Port of Baltimore in Baltimore, Wednesday, June 12, 2024. Federal, state, and local officials held a news conference to mark the full reopening of the Port of Baltimore following the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in March. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

The container ship Dali is docked at a slip at the Port of Baltimore in Baltimore, Wednesday, June 12, 2024. Federal, state, and local officials held a news conference to mark the full reopening of the Port of Baltimore following the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge in March. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

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What to know about Evan Gershkovich's conviction for espionage in Russia

2024-07-19 22:38 Last Updated At:22:40

The trial of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich ended Friday with his conviction on espionage charges that he, his employer and the U.S. government have dismissed as fabricated. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison.

Here’s what we know about the secretive process.

It took place in the Sverdlovsk Regional Court in the city of Yekaterinburg, about 880 miles (1,416 kilometers) east of Moscow. That's the city where Gershkovich was arrested in March 2023, while on a reporting trip.

The session was closed. Gershkovich was in court for the verdict and stood in the glass defendants' cage wearing a dark colored T-shirt. His head was shaved, just as it was at the start of his trial in June. It is not known whether he chose to shave it or whether he was forced to.

The judge sentenced Gershkovich to 16 years in a maximum security penal colony. The judge asked Gershkovich if he understood the verdict and he replied in Russian, “yes, your honor.” The judge asked if he had any questions and Gershkovich replied “no, your honor.”

As the press cameras were leaving court, someone shouted out “we love you Evan."

Gershkovich, the American-born son of immigrants from the USSR, is the first Western journalist arrested on espionage charges in post-Soviet Russia. Russian authorities, without presenting evidence, claimed he was gathering secret information for the U.S.

The State Department has declared him “wrongfully detained,” thereby committing the government to assertively seek his release.

The Journal's publisher, Almar Latour, and Emma Tucker, its top editor, called it a “disgraceful, sham conviction,” in a statement after the verdict. “Journalism is not a crime, and we will not rest until he’s released. This must end now,” Latour and Tucker said.

A top White House spokesman also called the proceedings “nothing more than a sham trial.”

“Evan has never been employed by the United States government. Evan is not a spy. Journalism is not a crime. And Evan should never have been detained in the first place,” White House national security spokesman John Kirby said Wednesday. “Russia has failed to justify Evan’s continued detention. He, like fellow American Paul Whelan, is simply being used as a bargaining chip.”

Gershkovich’s arrest came about a year after President Vladimir Putin pushed through laws that chilled journalists, criminalizing criticism of Russia’s war in Ukraine and statements seen as discrediting the military. Foreign journalists largely left the country after the laws’ passage, but some have trickled back in. There are concerns about whether Russian authorities would target them as animosity between Moscow and Washington grows.

After the verdict, Gershkovich is expected to be taken back to the detention facility in Yekaterinburg where he was held during the trial. Both the prosecution and defense have 15 days to appeal the sentence. If there’s no appeal, Gershkovich will be transferred back to prison.

If there is an appeal, Gershkovich will probably stay in Yekaterinburg until there is another hearing.

The process of transferring him can last days or even months, and it may only be clear where Gershkovich will serve his sentence once his lawyers are told that he has arrived at a prison.

Although Russia-U.S. relations are at their lowest point since the Cold War, the countries negotiated a swap in 2022 that freed WNBA star Brittney Griner, who had been serving a 9 1/2-year sentence for cannabis possession. Griner was exchanged for arms dealer Viktor Bout, who was imprisoned in the U.S.

The countries also traded Marine veteran Trevor Reed, who serving nine years in Russia for assaulting a police officer, and Russian pilot Konstantin Yaroshenko, who’d been serving a 20-year prison sentence for conspiring to smuggle cocaine.

Putin hinted that he would be open to swapping Gershkovich for Vadim Krasikov, a Russian serving a life sentence in Germany for the 2019 killing in Berlin of a Georgian citizen of Chechen descent. However, Germany’s willingness to cooperate is uncertain.

It could be months or years. Russian officials previously said a swap can only happen after a verdict, but it depends on when Moscow and Washington can reach a deal. Past experiences differ drastically.

Griner was exchanged about four months after her verdict. Reed was released in a swap 21 months after his. Whelan, convicted of espionage in 2020 and sentenced to 16 years in prison, is still waiting.

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich stands listening to the verdict in a glass cage of a courtroom inside the building of "Palace of justice," in Yekaterinburg, Russia, on Friday, July 19, 2024. A Russian court convicted Gershkovich on espionage charges that his employer and the U.S. have rejected as fabricated. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison after a secretive and rapid trial in the country's highly politicized legal system. (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky)

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich stands listening to the verdict in a glass cage of a courtroom inside the building of "Palace of justice," in Yekaterinburg, Russia, on Friday, July 19, 2024. A Russian court convicted Gershkovich on espionage charges that his employer and the U.S. have rejected as fabricated. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison after a secretive and rapid trial in the country's highly politicized legal system. (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky)

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, second left, stands listening to the verdict in a glass cage of a courtroom inside the building of "Palace of justice," in Yekaterinburg, Russia, on Friday, July 19, 2024. A Russian court convicted Gershkovich on espionage charges that his employer and the U.S. have rejected as fabricated. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison after a secretive and rapid trial in the country's highly politicized legal system. (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky)

Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, second left, stands listening to the verdict in a glass cage of a courtroom inside the building of "Palace of justice," in Yekaterinburg, Russia, on Friday, July 19, 2024. A Russian court convicted Gershkovich on espionage charges that his employer and the U.S. have rejected as fabricated. He was sentenced to 16 years in prison after a secretive and rapid trial in the country's highly politicized legal system. (AP Photo/Dmitri Lovetsky)

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