Justice Gregory Cann has found lobster boat captain Clarence Barry White not guilty on two counts of criminal negligence causing death over a boat collision that left two men dead.
He did, however, find White guilty of dangerous operation of a conveyance — in this case, his vessel — causing death.
Sobs broke out in a Charlottetown courtroom on Friday as the judge announced his decision.
White's defence lawyer, Brian Casey, had argued his client had the right of way the day the two boats collided on June 9, 2018 in water off Beach Point, P.E.I.
"Because both he and — as the judge indicates in the decision — the other operator were not paying as close attention as they should be…there was a collision," Casey said.
"That momentary collision has put his life on hold both emotionally and mentally for three years now. He was very surprised that they decided at the end of two years that they would lay charges."
White's boat, Forever Chasin' Tail, hit the Joel '98 broadside, killing two of the five people on that vessel: Justin MacKay and Chris Melanson.
During the trial, court heard that White's boat was on autopilot at the time of the crash, and White was writing entries in his log book as the vessel headed back to port.
The judge accepted White's testimony that he was at the helm but just didn't see the boat in his path.
That means he did not accept the testimony of two men on the other boat — the captain and a crew member — who testified they could see White's captain's chair was empty in the moments leading up to the crash.
Cann's decision said the other men just didn't have time to see what was happening in that much detail. He also noted that their testimony differed from what they originally told police back in 2018.
The fishing ground was very active on the day of the collision, but the weather was good and visibility was excellent.
White had previously pleaded guilty to one count of failing to keep proper lookout under the Canada Shipping Act.
A hearing to set a sentencing date has been scheduled for Oct. 12.
The maximum penalty for dangerous operation causing death is 14 years in prison.