The pilot of a ship that dumped 53,000 gallons of oil in San Francisco Bay last year was indicted today, the San Francisco Chronicle reports. John Cota faces two federal misdemeanor charges, for releasing a pollutant and killing migratory birds; at least 2,000 birds died in the spill. His attorney called the filing premature because the NTSB is still probing the incident.
"We are hopeful that our dialogue with the government will continue, but we are prepared to vigorously defend against these criminal allegations," his lawyer said. Cota faces up to 18 months in prison and $115,000 in fines if convicted. The State Board of Pilot Commissioners has blamed Cota for the crash, and the Coast Guard accused him of being unfit to pilot another ship.