WASHINGTON — Four Jamaican fishermen were held for nearly a month aboard U.S. Coast Guard vessels in the Caribbean Sea, most of the time chained outside in the blistering sun and through strong storms.
That’s according to a lawsuit filed Wednesday by the American Civil Liberties Union.
The men were picked up Sept. 14, 2017. The Coast Guard would not comment specifically on the litigation, but said the crew were seen dumping marijuana into the water.
The Coast Guard said the Jamaican authorities gave permission for the men to be taken to the U.S. for prosecution.
The men pleaded guilty to providing false information about their boat's destination. They served 10 months and were deported in August.
The ACLU lawsuit was brought under maritime law that would allow for damages for the trauma the men say they endured.
Navy Times editor’s note: The ACLU lawsuit claims that the Coast Guard cutter Confidence spotted the Jamaican fishing boat Jossette off the coast of Haiti on Sept. 14, 2017, after their vessel had been blown off course in a storm and lost most power to its engines. The complaint says that no evidence of marijuana, even in trace amounts, was found on the boat, which the Coast Guard destroyed. The lawsuit claims that the detainees were transferred to another vessel, where they were chained to the deck during a tropical storm. They allegedly spent 32 days in abysmal conditions on multiple Coast Guard vessels and suffer today from that incarceration. Navy Times has not found a federal legal filing that responds to the allegations but it should be noted that the defendants pleaded guilty to a crime, just not what they initially were accused of doing (transporting an estimated 100 kilograms of marijuana, which authorities say was dumped into the ocean in the form of 20-25 bales of suspected contraband). According to federal authorities, the crew fished at least 613 pounds of pot from the water and found no fishing gear on board the Jossette.