August 2, 2013

Citation mate has charges dismissed
in Big Rock Tournament controversy


BY CATHERINE KOZAK



Peter Wann’s ticket for fishing without a license was dismissed last month in Carteret County Superior Court. But the dismissal won’t restore the more than $1 million in winnings the first mate’s missing license cost the Citation.

Wann was a 22-year old college student when his lack of a recreational saltwater fishing license disqualified the sportfishing boat from its first place winnings for hooking an 883-pound blue marlin in the 2010 Big Rock Blue Marlin Tournament.

The owners of the Hatteras-based charter boat Citation filed a lawsuit against the tournament, arguing that the fish was caught outside state waters, where a fishing license is not required, and that Wann had obtained his license online before re-entering state waters.

A settlement reached between parties earlier this year remains confidential.

Zebulon attorney Andy Gay, who represented the Citation as well as the mate, said that Wann’s case, which had been appealed, had been on the court calendar 30 times.

Initially, Wann had pleaded not guilty in District Court and was tried and found guilty. He was fined $35 and ordered to pay $125 in court costs. The case was then appealed to Superior Court. Meanwhile, the civil lawsuit was filed.

Assistant District Attorney David Spence said that the case continued to roll over to the next court calendar while the civil matter was litigated.  The fishing without a license charge was expected to be dismissed, which is routine as long as the defendant possesses a valid license.
 
“It was just a compliance matter,” Spence said, “and everybody agreed that’s what would happen when the civil case was resolved.” 

Gay said that Wann, now 25, is doing well, but he was relieved that the charge was finally dismissed on July 9, and there was no fine or court costs levied. 

“He’s still fishing and has made a good career at it. He fishes quite a bit out of the Caribbean,” the attorney said. “Obviously, he’s a very young man. This has been very burdensome on him.”

A June 24, 2010 article in The Washington Post described Wann’s two-hour struggle that resulted in the June 14 landing of the gigantic fish, the biggest marlin ever caught in the Big Rock tournament.

“My eyes were wide,” Wann said. “Once it got up, everybody started freaking out, saying, ‘Holy smokes!’ Everybody was so excited.”

In interviews with several news outlets, Wann said that he has assumed that the Citation possessed a blanket fishing license, and that no one on the boat told him that he was required to have his own fishing license.

“It was a bad mistake on my part, a bad mistake on the captain’s part for not making sure I had one, and bad mistake on the owner’s part for not making sure we all had one,” Wann told Greenville, N.C. station WNCT.

Then a senior at George Washington University studying mechanical engineering, Wann was being paid about $500 a week.


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