By RASHAD ROLLE
Tribune Staff Reporter
A US federal judge has rejected a Bahamian environmentalist’s motion to be identified as a victim in proceedings against Carnival Corporation.
Now the activist, Sam Duncombe of reEarth, has appealed the ruling to the 11th US Circuit Court of Appeals alongside three people from Alaska who also want to be identified as victims.
Carnival paid a $40 million fine in 2016 after admitting to dumping waste into the ocean and covering it up. As part of the settlement the company was required to serve a five-year probation in which it has to be supervised by a court-appointed monitor. The monitor’s reports for the first two years of the probation period showed Carnival ships dumped 66,000 gallons of ballast waters and hundreds of thousands of gallons of treated sewage and food waste in Bahamian waters.
Federal prosecutors ultimately accused the company of six violations of its Environmental Compliance Plan, including discharging plastic mixed with food waste into Bahamian waters. Earlier this month, US District Court Judge Patricia Seitz approved a settlement agreement between the cruise line and prosecutors that would see Carnival pay a $20 million fine and undergo enhanced inspections because of the violations.
Ms Duncombe and three others, Theodore Thomas, Eric Former and Ronn Buschmann, wanted to participate in the probation violation proceedings under the Crime Victim’s Rights Act which enumerates the rights afforded to victims in federal criminal cases.
The lawyer for the petitioners, Knoll Lowney, argued in a writ that the District Court erred when it failed to enter findings or conclusions or provide explanation for denying his clients CVRA rights.
Ms Duncombe “describes how her enjoyment of the beaches, waters, and air around her home in the Bahamas has been harmed by Carnival’s pattern of pollution, including discharges of oil and trash in Bahamian waters—crimes encompassed by the original plea agreement and the later settlement of probation violations,” he noted in explaining why the petitioners have standing in the case.
Federal prosecutors had opposed the petition, arguing the petitioners did not provide any information linking their emotional or other injury to Carnival’s charged conduct.
But Mr Lowney rebuffed this and other arguments, pointing out that contrary to what prosecutors said, not just one Carnival vessel was involved in illegal activity; in fact, five Carnival ships were found to have polluted waters.
Mr Lowney wants the appellate court to vacate the agreement the District Court approved because it was “entered in violation of the CVRA,” which “‘mandates that the court shall ensure that the crime victim is afforded’ special rights, including the right to confer and the right to be heard.”
Mr Lowney also wants the appellate court to “remand with an order for the District Court to afford petitioners their CVRA rights.”
“Carnival did not oppose petitioners’ motion for CVRA rights and the governments’ opposition was based largely upon its erroneous assertion that victims of Carnival’s crimes in Alaska and the Bahamas have no rights under the CVRA,” Mr Lowney wrote. “The government did not and could not dispute that petitioners had been harmed. The three Alaskan victims are involved in the fishing industry in area in which Carnival’s cruise ships illegally pollute the water. The Bahamian victim was harmed by oil and plastics in the area in which Carnival’s cruise ships illegally discharged oil and plastics.”