Boat operator fined in black sea bass-killing case

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Posted by on July 01, 2005 at 07:39:34:

A boat operator accused of carrying two spear fishermen into an ecological reserve where one of them killed a protected giant sea bass has pleaded no contest to a charge he ignored posted signs in the area.

A lawyer for Navid Adibi, 22, entered the plea yesterday in San Diego Superior Court. The charge violation of posted "no fishing/no boating" signs was reduced from a misdemeanor to an infraction.

Commissioner Sandra L. Berry ordered Adibi to pay a $500 fine.

Prosecutors dropped other charges against him, including conspiracy and unlawful possession of a protected species, as part of a plea agreement.

Deputy City Attorney Kathryn Lange said after the hearing yesterday that Adibi, as the driver of the boat, was the least culpable of the three men charged.

A hearing for scuba diver Omid Adhami, 34, who authorities said speared the fish, and his diving partner, Nima Hodaji, 26, was postponed to Aug. 18. Adhami faces four charges, including conspiracy and possession of a protected species. The charges carry a maximum penalty of three years in jail and $22,000 in fines.

Hodaji faces a maximum penalty of 2 years in jail and $21,000 in fines if convicted of conspiracy and possession of a protected species.

San Diego lifeguards watched with binoculars as the three men drove a boat into the San Diego-La Jolla Ecological Reserve on April 24, passing one of several bright yellow buoys that mark its boundaries, according to court documents.

Two of the men put on scuba gear and loaded spear guns. About 20 minutes after they entered the water, the men surfaced and appeared to be struggling with something.

The boat operator drove up to the divers and helped them lift what appeared to be a giant sea bass onto the boat, court documents show.

Authorities intercepted the boat as the three men tried to leave the area.

Adhami was arrested and booked into county jail. He was later released on $1,000 bail. The San Diego City Attorney's Office filed misdemeanor charges against all three men about three weeks later.

Adhami has six felony convictions from 1992 to 2000 for auto theft, receiving stolen property, burglary and insurance fraud, and he has spent more than two years in state prison. He is an undocumented emigrant from Iran who could be deported at any time pending permission from that country.

On Dec. 29, Hodaji pleaded guilty to fishing without a license after he was cited for illegally taking 10 undersized lobster and an undersized sheephead.

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