A federal judge has restricted the federal government’s ability to use results of a blood test taken from a Cushing fishing boat captain accused of causing the deaths of two crew members when his lobster boat sank during a November 2014 gale.

U.S. District Court Judge D. Brock Hornby issued his ruling Wednesday in the case of 29-year-old Christopher A. Hutchinson, who is charged with two counts of seaman’s manslaughter for the deaths of Tom Hammond, 27, of Rockland, and 15-year-old Tyler Sawyer, who lived in St. George and Waldoboro. They were crew members aboard Hutchinson’s lobster boat, No Limits, which sank on Nov. 1, 2014.

The judge ruled that Coast Guard regulations do not compel a seaman to submit to a blood test. Hornby also ruled that Hutchinson did not give consent voluntarily.

Christopher Hutchinson

The investigators also failed to get a warrant to obtain a blood sample from Hutchinson and there were no exigent circumstances requiring the test before a warrant was obtained. The government also did not have probable cause to take the sample, Hornby ruled.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office can only use the results of the blood test at the upcoming trial if Hutchinson testifies that he did not use any drugs.

Hutchinson’s attorney, Michael Turndorf of Portland, had asked for the blood test to be suppressed at trial, arguing that it was done without a warrant or probable cause. Hearings on the suppression motion were held on Dec. 18 and Dec. 20.


Turndorf said the Coast Guard had no suspicion that Hutchinson was under the influence through its contact with him and that a blood alcohol test showed no alcohol in his system.

The defense attorney also said that the medical staff at Maine Medical Center had refused a request by the Coast Guard to take a blood test. The Coast Guard then contacted a Gorham police officer trained in taking blood samples.

On the night of the sinking, one of two drug dealers alleged to have provided oxycodone to Hutchinson contacted Sawyer’s father and suggested that he ask the Coast Guard to test Hutchinson for drugs, according to a prosecution filing. The father contacted the Coast Guard and a blood sample was drawn shortly before Hutchinson was released from the hospital.

The prosecution maintains that Hutchinson purchased 20, 30-milligram oxycodone pills from two drug dealers, smoked marijuana with Sawyer’s father, and drank a rum and coke at a Rockland restaurant on Halloween, according to papers filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office. He then departed for a fishing trip at 1 a.m. Nov. 1 from Linda Bean’s dock in Tenants Harbor as rain began falling.

The emergency location radio beacon from the vessel activated at 1:30 p.m. when the vessel sank. A Coast Guard helicopter located Hutchinson in a life raft without a survival suit or life preserver at 4 p.m. The bow of the No Limits was spotted by the helicopter at 5 p.m. with no signs of life. The helicopter diverted from a search for the two missing crew members to take Hutchinson to the hospital for treatment for exposure and a cut to his head.

The prosecution said in a court filing that Hutchinson admitted to Tyler Sawyer’s father, Travis Sawyer, during a Nov. 2 telephone call and in person on Nov. 3 that Hutchinson was “dirty” at the time of the sinking.


Hutchinson admitted to attorneys for his insurance company on Dec. 11 that he had taken oxycodone and smoked marijuana. The Cushing man also told Coast Guard investigators on Jan. 13, 2015, that he knew what the blood test would detect, telling them that he bought the painkillers off the street for back and shoulder pain, according to the government.

Hutchinson’s mother was in the hospital room and objected to the blood test, but the officer said it was mandatory, according to the defense motion to suppress the drug test. The defense claims Hutchinson was asleep in a hospital bed when the sample was taken from an existing intravenous line. He never signed a consent form for the test, Turndorf argued.

Jury selection for Hutchinson’s trial is scheduled for Feb. 5. The trial is expected to last 10 days.

The charges carry a prison sentence of up to 10 years.

Hutchinson was initially released on bail after being charged in December 2016 with manslaughter but in April 2017 he was ordered detained until trial after he admitted to overdosing on heroin March 13 at a residence in Friendship. Two doses of the drug Narcan were administered and Hutchinson regained consciousness.

In a newspaper interview Hutchinson gave a few days after his boat sank in November 2014, he said the No Limits was on its way back to the mainland after a day of hauling traps when the seas and winds quickly intensified, causing the 45-foot fiberglass lobster boat to flip.

A weather buoy nearby reported wind gusts of 40 knots and waves of up to 14 feet. The boat flipped several miles west of Matinicus, he said.

In July 2015, Superior Court Justice Daniel Billings ruled that $170,500 in damages should go to Michelle Miete of Washington, the personal representative of the estate of Hammond, and the remaining $139,500 of the settlement fund will go to Lisa Chickering and Travis Sawyer, the parents and personal representatives of Tyler Sawyer.

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