NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) - The alleged pirate attacks happened half a world away, off thecoast of Africa. So why is this case being tried in Norfolk?
The last time someone was prosecuted for piracy in the U.S. wasin 1937, in a case that involved an attack on a gambling boat offthe coast of California.
The current case involves alleged attacks on U.S. Navalvessels by foreign nationals, bringing piracy into the U.S.judicial system once again.
There is no real government structure in Somalia, and theAfrican nation of Kenya says its court system is becomingoverburdened with these cases. Other nations cite what has beenreferred to as "thorny jurisdiction issues".
"I've heard that comment..." says Norfolk attorney MarcMarling
As the former U.S. Counsel for a French shipping company thathas had its own dealings with pirates, Marling is familiar with thecomplexities of maritime law when it comes to prosecuting acts ofpiracy.
He cites the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seathat allows "any State to seize and prosecute pirates..." althoughthe United States has not signed the Convention.
The U.S. is a member of the International Maritime Organization,which has a convention that says "one State can seize a pirate andturn him over to another State for prosecution..."
"So the taking of a U.S. ship would confer jurisdiction and theattack on U-S sailors would confer jurisdiction in the U.S.,"Marling said.
But why hold the trial in Norfolk?
"I don't believe there's anything particularly special aboutNorfolk, except perhaps the fact that these two vessels arehome-ported here," Marling said. "So there seem to be a logicaljurisdictional place here."
Critics ask if the U.S. judicial system should invest time andmoney prosecuting pirates from another country.
"To the extent that we choose to prosecute under our piracy lawsany alleged pirates who commit acts against U-S citizens," saysMarling. "I think that falls squarely within one of the basictenants of why we have a legal system in this country."
Charges have been made in a domestic abuse investigation involving a 74-year-old woman in Elizabeth City.
Witnesses tell WAVY.com the attack of a shopper was the cause of a heavy police presence at the Ross department store at Military Circle in Norfolk Wednesday night.
Drivers traveling between Hatteras Island and the mainland were forced to use an emergency ferry Wednesday, following the sudden closure of the Bonner Bridge Tuesday.