Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

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January 8, 2013

Fish story lands in NC's high court, $1M on line

(Continued)

"If none of the rules are material, then people could take rifles and shoot fish. They could fish at any hours of the day if they want to," Evans said. He said the rules were critical to the operation of the tournament and the most important aspect.

Wann thought the Citation had a blanket license that covered the entire crew, and when he found out there may have been a question if his license was active he got online while still miles at sea and bought another while still outside the state's territorial waters, which extend three miles from shore, said Darren Jackson, an attorney for the boat's owners.

"Maybe it was just luck that they happened to have a computer with internet access out in the middle of the ocean, but they did. And they did get the license," Jackson said.

State regulators couldn't decide when or if Wann violated state fishing laws and had to amend the citation they issued the mate, Jackson said. While one tournament rule said North Carolina required a recreational fishing license for anyone aboard, the language didn't state that failing to follow the state law could lead to disqualification from the contest, Jackson said. Disqualification for violating the fishing license rule was as unreasonable as if the same punishment were leveled for other violations that didn't tilt the competition, like going too fast in a "no wake" zone or failing to have the proper number of lifejackets on board.

"They applied this provision with the most drastic remedy they could," Jackson said. "It's the ultimate decision. It's their death penalty, so to speak. I would argue to you that's the height of arbitrariness."

The high court should send the case back for a jury to decide, Jackson said, not let stand a lower-court ruling that he said doesn't pass the smell test.

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