The fired captain of the Exxon Valdez was ordered to stand trial next month on charges of being drunk while his vessel crashed into a reef and spilled more than 10 million gallons of oil.
Joseph Hazelwood, 42, pleaded not guilty Wednesday before state District Court Judge David Stewart to three misdemeanor charges of operating a vessel while drunk, reckless endangerment and negligent discharge of oil. He faces two years, three months in prison and $11,000 in fines if convicted of all the counts.Paulette Foster, a spokeswoman for the district attorney's office, also said a grand jury has begun an investigation to determine whether additional criminal charges should also be filed against Hazelwood, who was released on $50,000 bail. Hazelwood's attorneys said they will seek to have the trial, scheduled for June 20 in Valdez, moved because of extensive news coverage. He said an alternate location had not been selected.
Hazelwood is accused of turning over control of the 987-foot-long Exxon Valdez to an uncertified mate on March 24, when it rammed a charted reef outside shipping lanes and ripped its bottom, letting the Alaskan North Slope oil pour into Prince William Sound.
Authorities say Hazelwood, who has a history of alcohol-related driving arrests in New York, had a blood-alcohol level of 0.061 percent nine hours after the accident. The legal maritime limit for operating a vessel is 0.04 percent.
After the spill, Hazelwood went home to Huntington, N.Y., where he was arrested on a fugitive warrant. He returned voluntarily Wednesday and surrendered. He had been free on $25,000 bail in New York, and a prosecutor said he would move to dismiss the fugitive charge and return the bail money.
Vice President Dan Quayle, meanwhile, was scheduled to tour the spill damage Thursday night at Cordova and the heavily tarred Smith Island. He was to visit with his wife, Marilyn, Gov. Steve Cowper, federal Transportation Secretary Samuel Skinner and Coast Guard Adm. Paul A. Yost.
At Smith Island beach, workers were constructing a wooden platform from which Quayle could view the pollution.
The state, responding to a request from Yost to evaulate Exxon's revised cleanup plan, rejected the Exxon proposal, saying it was inadequate and didn't provide for enough personnel to do the job.