Michael W. Magner Secures Complete Trial Victory for Accused Captain

May 31, 2019 02:10 PM
Michael W. Magner

After spending more than 19 months detained in Lake Charles, Louisiana, Captain Vjaceslavs Birzakovs, Master of the oil tanker RIDGEBURY ALEXANDRA Z has been acquitted of all charges and is able to return to Russia following his complete acquittal by a jury on May 23, 2019.

IADC member Michael W. Magner, a partner at Jones Walker, and his colleague T.C. Wicker, IV secured the victory on behalf of Captain Birzakovs following a four day jury trial before U.S. District Judge Jay C. Zainey in the Western District of Louisiana, Lafayette Division.

The Captain was accused of six criminal counts of federal pollution and obstruction of justice, related to a Coast Guard investigation of the RIDGEBURY ALEXANDRA Z for alleged MARPOL violations. 

Captain Birzakovs as well as 10 members of the crew and officers of the vessel had been detained in the South Louisiana area for 19 months in connection with the case. The Captain maintained his innocence at all times and requested a speedy trial.

Following just two hours of deliberations, a jury found Captain Birzakovs not guilty on all six charges.

“I cooperated fully with the Coast Guard’s investigation and am very pleased but not at all surprised by the jury’s verdict,” Captain Birzakovs said. “I have always maintained my innocence and am grateful for the fair trial I received from the jury and Judge Zainey. I also want to thank my attorneys, Mike Magner and T.C. Wicker, of Jones Walker for their support and representation of me at trial,” he added.

Jones Walker’s Corporate Compliance & White Collar Defense Practice Group works closely with the firm’s Admiralty & Maritime Practice Group to represent clients with operations across the globe and solve complex compliance issues, handle internal and government investigations, and defend against criminal prosecutions and enforcement actions in foreign jurisdictions and across the United States, in state and federal courts, and before U.S. and international arbitral bodies.

“As a result of the fair treatment Captain Birzakovs received in the courts, he is now a believer in the American jury system,” said Mr. Magner. “We are glad that he was vindicated and can now return home to his family and his career.”

Mr. Magner is a partner at Jones Walker and has more than 35 years of experience litigating complex criminal and civil matters, including more than 45 jury trials. He served as a federal prosecutor in New Orleans for 20 years and, in recognition of his work, was awarded the Department of Justice's highest award for litigation, the John Marshall Award, as well as the Director's Award for Superior Performance by a Litigative Team. He has tried cases in virtually all sections of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern and Middle districts of Louisiana.

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