Sacramento River Hijacking?
By Ron Lee
Sacramento, California – Eugene Isaacson owns, but does not have in his possession, the federally documented sea-faring vessel Gray Finn, which was reportedly hijacked by some waterway development schemers as reported in our previous story, “Sacramento Conspiracy?”.
In that article, we outlined how it was reported that on January 11, 2005 Arbitrator and retired Judge William M. Gallagher ruled against Robert (Butch) Rawlings and Eugene Isaacson who had their boats towed from their mooring location on the Sacramento River.
According to Rawlings and Isaacson they were in a dispute with an adjacent property owner named Shawn Berrigan, a one-time code enforcement officer for the city of Sacramento and then current building field inspector (according to the Sacramento city web site). Berrigan attempted to force Rawlings and Isaacson to move their boats claiming they were blocking ingress and egress to the Courtland Docks, which Berrigan claimed ownership of, even though expert witnesses had stated that the boats were not blocking the Docks.
Enlisting the aid of Sacramento Sheriff’s Deputy Don Hyatt, Berrigan had the boats towed by Tom Decker and moored them at Cliff’s Marina with the approval of Bob McDaris. Even though all parties were informed prior to towing that Rawlings and Isaacson would consider it theft if anyone removed their boats, the reported hijacking commenced.
Berrigan’s true intentions became clear when he offered to settle the whole issue if Rawlings would sell him his property, which would be required for Berrigan to expand his Courtland Dock Marina.
Unfortunately, Rawlings and Isaacson’s attorney filed suit in State Court. As it should have been under Federal jurisdiction covered by admiralty law, it left Judge Gallagher to rule against them. The attorney was fired and a separate case was filed in Federal court which was also later dismissed.
Subsequent suits have been filed, each with a similar outcome. It is quite common that the justice system does not look at, or rule on, the facts of a case. Instead, judges tend to rule in favor of the person who speaks the most ‘legal-ese’.
Perhaps according to the law, the old adage is right and possession really does show ownership, as those who illegally confiscated the vessels won a judgment to dismiss with prejudice on April 5, 2010 by the “honorable” U.S. District Court Judge, Dale A. Drozd.
The story, however, won’t end there. On April 21, 2010, Isaacson filed an appeal on the grounds the court ignored the admiralty and maritime character of the case and that no lien or entitlement had been placed on the Gray Finn. Should the case be seen by a magistrate concerned with justice, Eugene Isaacson should sail through his appeal. If not, and the status quo judgment in favor of the alleged thieves is upheld, piracy will have been legitimized on the Sacramento River.