“I fought the law and the law won.”
May Galloway summarized Jeremy Thomas’ day in court with the lyrics from “I Fought the Law,” by Sonny Curtis of the Crickets, in a July 3 text to The Islander.
Twelfth Circuit Judge Doug Henderson fined Thomas $100 earlier in the day, finding “sufficient evidence” he violated state law aimed at curtailing derelict vessels.
Bradenton Beach Police Officer Eric Hill ticketed Thomas in March for the 30-foot 1977 cabin cruiser he owns with having no effective means of propulsion.
Thomas lives with Galloway in a community of about 40 boats anchored south of the Historic Bridge Street Pier, where he and his wife own five boats, one in which they live.
The July decision came after Henderson postponed ruling in June, giving Thomas 30 days to make repairs and advising him to bring evidence of “the motor running” to the July hearing.
At the hearing, Thomas told Henderson he made the repairs “a couple days ago” and offered the judge a video of the motor in operation.
Henderson wasn’t interested in the video after Hill told the court that a running motor was not enough — the boat must move.
Hill checked on the vessel June 25 and was told it was not operational. The officer returned July 2, but there was no one on the vessel.
Henderson asked Thomas if the boat had moved.
Thomas replied no, adding he would have moved it had he known it was necessary.
After the hearing, Lt. John Cosby, who oversees the marine patrols in Bradenton Beach, was buoyed by the court victory.
Enforcement is important from a legal, safety and cost standpoint, he said.
“It’s the law,” Cosby said, adding taxpayers, through the West Coast Inland Navigational District and the county, foot the bill to remove abandoned boats.
In a storm, if a boat can’t move, it can become flying debris, endanger lives and destroy property.
“Plus, people are tired of looking at it and dealing with it,” Cosby said.
Thomas’ no-means-of-propulsion citation was his second such offense.
In September 2018, Hill cited Thomas for the same infraction on the same vessel.
Similarly, 12th Circuit Judge Renee Inman adjudicated Thomas guilty of the boating infraction.
She fined him $90 and, as of July 3, the fine was unpaid.
According to online records, Thomas’ nonpayment was referred to the state financial recovery department, which threatened a driver’s license suspension and additional fines.
Galloway and Thomas complain the BBPD and Hill have harassed them, woke them up in the early morning hours and run over their anchor lines while operating the city boat.
BBPD officers deny Hill has harassed the couple.
Cosby said the department has “an issue” with Galloway and Thomas because they continue to fail to comply with boating laws.