Home Waterfront issues Drunk Boater Acquitted of Killing Two Children

Drunk Boater Acquitted of Killing Two Children

by Kurt Hoehne

This story doesn’t come from our region, but it does seem relevant since Washington State put tougher boating under the influence laws into effect this year. If you wonder if that was unnecessary, you might want to read on or see this news report or the devastated mother testifying. Mr. Bennett was acquitted of homicide and other charges, but was sentenced to 30 months for boating under the influence. If you have any thoughts, please share your comments. -KH


By Alexis Stevens

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

The man who caused a fatal lake crash that killed two Gwinnett County brothers was acquitted of the homicide charges Thursday afternoon.

But Paul Bennett was found guilty of boating under the influence, reckless operation of a vessel, and failure to render aid in the crash that killed the Prince brothers in June 2012.

Bennett, 45, of Cumming, was sentenced to 30 months in prison, followed by 18 months on probation and 400 hours of community service. He has no more boating privileges in Georgia and must undergo drug and alcohol evaluations, a Hall County judge ruled.

The Prince brothers were killed when a drunk boater ran into this pontoon boat in 2012. Photo from the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

The Prince brothers were killed when a drunk boater ran into this pontoon boat in 2012. Photo from the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

Bennett was led out of the courtroom in handcuffs Thursday evening following the sentencing.

Bennett was accused of driving drunk when his boat collided with a pontoon boat on Lake Lanier around 10:30 p.m. on June 18, 2012. The Prince family of five was among 13 people on the pontoon at the time of the crash, which sent the two youngest Prince brothers, Jake, 9, and Griffin, 13, into the dark lake.

After the boats collided, the oldest Prince brother, Ryan, jumped into the lake and pulled Jake from the water, but Jake could not be revived. It would be nine days before divers located Griffin’s body, 113 feet under water.

Bennett was arrested the day after the fatal crash and charged with boating under the influence. Several weeks later, charges against Bennett were upgraded to include homicide by vessel, failure to render aid and reckless operation of a vessel.

Tara and Mike Prince each testified during the trial, but Bennett did not. In Wednesday’s closing arguments, Bennett’s attorneys called the collision an accident.

Eleven jurors reached the decision after the 12th juror was removed Thursday for allegedly looking online for details in the case.

“You should not consult dictionaries, reference materials, search the Internet websites or blogs,” a Hall County judge told the remaining jurors in the case.

The judge asked Bennett if he agreed to having 11 jurors decide the case. Bennett said yes.

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