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U.S. man jailed for islandfishing violation.

Byline: The Associated Press

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico - A retired U.S. police officer is in a prison in the British Virgin Islands, serving a one-year sentence alongside drug traffickers and robbers. His crime? Fishing without a license.

U.S. Virgin Islands Gov. John deJongh, whose territory is just a stone's throw from the British Virgins, has asked the U.S. State Department to help resolve the case. The British Virgin Islands Premier Ralph O'Neal will review it.

In the meantime, Richard Baker, a 54-year-old former police officer from Arlington, Va., sits in Her Majesty's Prison at Balsam Ghaut as his friends try to raise money to pay his $45,000 fine.

"He is the laughing stock of the prison," his wife, Deborah Barton, said Tuesday. "The inmates ... just crack up at him because he is doing a year for fishing."

Baker and Barton, 58, were trawling with two lines from their boat on Sept. 24 when they were stopped and charged with illegal entry into the British territory and fishing without a license. They pleaded guilty and were fined $1,000 each for illegal entry. As captain of the boat, Baker was hit with the additional fine of $45,000 for illegal fishing. Barton paid her fine and was released.

The steep penalty shocked the couple and their friends in the U.S. Virgin Islands, where they have lived for about a year on their 36-foot trawler, Mambo, docked in St. Thomas.

Barton said that when they were arrested they did not know their boat had crossed into British Virgin Islands waters.
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Title Annotation:Wire International
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Date:Oct 24, 2007
Words:263
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