A Cushing man who was captain of a fishing boat that sank nearly four years ago is scheduled to plead guilty next week to causing the deaths of his two crew members.

Christopher A. Hutchinson, 30, is scheduled to enter guilty pleas to two counts of manslaughter at a hearing scheduled for Sept. 26.

Christopher Hutchinson

In exchange, the U.S. Attorney’s Office has agreed to recommend a sentence of 48 months in prison with credit for time he has served while awaiting trial. That prison sentence would be followed by three years of supervised release.

The charges carried a potential sentence of 10 years in prison.

Hutchinson 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 lobsterboat, No Limits, which sank Nov. 1, 2014.

The federal prosecutors had appealed in February to the First Circuit Court of Appeals in Boston over whether a blood test taken the night of the sinking could be used at trial. Before the Appeals Court ruled, however, the U.S. Attorney’s Office agreed to withdraw the appeal.


The U.S. Attorney’s Office contends that on the night of the sinking, one of two drug dealers who is alleged to have provided oxycodone to Hutchinson contacted Sawyer’s father and suggested that he ask the Coast Guard to test the captain for drugs, according to a filing in court by the prosecution. The father contacted the Coast Guard and a blood sample was drawn shortly before Hutchinson was released from the hospital in Portland.

The prosecution maintains that Hutchinson purchased 20, 30-milligram oxycodone pills from two separate drug dealers, smoked marijuana with Sawyer’s father, and drank a rum and coke at a Rockland restaurant on Halloween, according to papers filed in court 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 position-indicating radio beacon from the vessel activated at 1:30 p.m. that day, 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 in order to take Hutchinson to the hospital for treatment of exposure and a cut to his head.

In a filing this week in federal court, the prosecution stated that Hutchinson said he had been surfing the waves on the return to shore when the vessel capsized stern over bow. The captain said he was knocked unconscious and when he came to, he saw the two crew members on the back of the boat but they were immediately swept away by a wave.

The prosecution states in a court filing that Hutchinson admitted to Tyler Sawyer’s father, Travis Sawyer, during a Nov. 2, 2014, 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 Dec. 11, 2014, that he had taken the oxycodone and smoked marijuana. The Cushing man also told Coast Guard investigators 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.

U.S. District Court Judge D. Brock Hornby ruled Jan. 17 that Coast Guard regulations do not compel a seaman to submit to a blood test. The judge also ruled that the consent received from Hutchinson was not voluntary.

The investigators failed to get a warrant from the court to obtain the blood sample and there were no exigent circumstances requiring the test before a warrant was obtained, Hornby ruled. The government also did not have probable cause for the draw at the time it was taken, according to the January ruling.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office could have only used the results of the blood test at the upcoming trial if Hutchinson testified and stated that he did not use any drugs.

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