SAN FRANCISCO (AP) A federal judge on Monday refused to accept a no-contest plea to felony charges from the operator of an oil container ship that struck a bridge in the San Francisco Bay last year.
U.S. District Judge Susan Illston said she wasn't satisified that Fleet Management Ltd. planned to take responsibility for the spill by pleading no contest to charges that it was responsible for the spill and doctored paperwork to thwart the investigation.
Hong Kong-based Fleet Management has pleaded not guilty to six felony charges and two misdemeanor counts for the Nov. 7, 2007, crash.
A defendant who pleads no contest neither admits nor disputes a charge. The plea differs from a guilty plea in one key respect: A no-contest plea can't be used as evidence in lawsuits.
In court filings proposing the no-contest plea, Fleet Management had offered to accept the convictions, but claimed the crash was largely the fault of others.
The American pilot of the ship, John Cota, has pleaded not guilty to charges he lied to U.S. Coast Guard officials about his medical record to maintain his license. He has also pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor pollution charges.
Cota and the company are scheduled to stand trial together Nov. 17, though the judge has indicated she is willing to delay the start date by several weeks.