A sailboat skipper who was arrested by the Coast Guard outside the Golden Gate on Sunday was given an Aug. 7 date in federal court in San Francisco today for arraignment on three criminal charges.
David McCormick is accused of sending out a false distress call on Sunday morning, failing to “heave to” or stop his boat Sunday evening in response to Coast Guard orders, and assaulting a Coast Guard officer who boarded his vessel.
The three charges were lodged in a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco by federal prosecutors on Monday.
U.S. Coast Guard Investigative Service special agent Brandon Trinidad alleged in an affidavit filed with the complaint that McCormick told officers that “any attempt to board my vessel is an act of war.”
At a court session today, U.S. Magistrate Joseph Spero scheduled the Aug. 7 hearing for arraignment as well as a status conference on McCormick’s immigration situation.
McCormick holds passports from both New Zealand and Ireland, Coast Guard Lt. j.g. Mark Leahey said on Monday.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Joshua Eaton said although Spero granted McCormick release in the criminal case on $100,000 bond, McCormick was retained in custody today because of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement hold.
Trinidad said in the affidavit that a man with an Australian accent, who he believes to be McCormick, sent out a mayday call at 9 a.m. Sunday, saying another man had fallen overboard and asking the Coast Guard to send a boat to help.
“Oh he’s over mate and he needs some help. He’s over, um, in the fog somewhere in the Bay,” the caller said, according to the affidavit.
The Coast Guard launched a helicopter to search, Trinidad said. At about noon, the man informed the Coast Guard that his “best mate” had been found, Trinidad said.
Half an hour later, McCormick activated an emergency radio beacon indicating his position, Trinidad said.
At the time, McCormick’s 45-foot sailboat was moored in Richardson Bay off Sausalito, according to Leahey.
When Coast Guard officers asked to come aboard for a safety inspection, McCormick refused and told the officers, “This is a peace ship and any attempt to board my vessel is an act of war,” and said he had weapons on board to defend himself, according to the affidavit.
McCormick cut his anchor line, raised his sails and was pursued by several Coast Guard vessels, Trinidad wrote. Leahey said on Monday that the chase began at about 4 p.m. on Sunday.
At 7 p.m., crew members from a Coast Guard cutter pulled along McCormick’s boat about 2.5 miles southwest of the Golden Gate Bridge. After several officers boarded the sailboat and the lead officer attempted to handcuff him, McCormick allegedly hit that officer in the face three times, Trinidad said.
McCormick bought his boat in Alameda and berthed it in Berkeley, according to the Coast Guard.
Julia Cheever, Bay City News