Abandoned Flying Fifty sailboat owner off the hook

Flying Fifty hovers above the ground after being plucked from the canal along SR-951 Wednesday evening by Sea Tow and Cypress Construction contractors. The lift-off was quickly followed by an intentional crash landing on the bank of the canal. Excavation of the abandoned, once half-sunken, 70-foot sailboat, from the Marco River, cost $40,000.
Kelly Farrell/ Staff

Photo by KELLY FARRELL, Staff // Buy this photo

Flying Fifty hovers above the ground after being plucked from the canal along SR-951 Wednesday evening by Sea Tow and Cypress Construction contractors. The lift-off was quickly followed by an intentional crash landing on the bank of the canal. Excavation of the abandoned, once half-sunken, 70-foot sailboat, from the Marco River, cost $40,000. Kelly Farrell/ Staff

Final flight, crash of the Flying Fifty

Abandoned Flying Fifty sailboat takes several days ...

— A judge has dismissed charges against a Golden Gate Estates man charged with abandoning his wrecked sailboat in the Marco River last year after a defense attorney argued the prosecution couldn't prove its case.

It turned out Steven K. Lacefield, 56, never received the title from the boat's owner after paying $90,000 and could not be prosecuted as the owner.

Lacefield was set to go to trial Wednesday on charges of operating a boat without a title and abandoning a derelict vessel on Florida state waters, but defense attorney Donald Day filed a motion to dismiss, which was granted by Collier County Judge Mike Carr.

That's because the prosecution's key witness -- who sold the boat to Lacefield -- didn't want to travel from Arkansas to testify in the trial, Assistant State Attorney Bill McCaughan told the judge, adding that the witness had been told by someone in the State Attorney's Office that she didn't have to testify.

"They did not have the evidence to prove the case even with the witness," Day said Thursday. "... They could not prove any of the elements necessary. This was a mess from the start."

The boat had remained in the river for six months while the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission investigated and determined the "Flying Fifty," which was registered in Delaware, was owned by Lacefield. He was charged on March 26, 2008, and has been free on $1,500 bond ever since.

More than a month before he was charged, Lacefield was notified that it was his responsibility to remove the boat, according to the FWC, but took no action. The FWC also notified him that he'd have to pay a county boat removal fee, but Day said that wasn't paid because the state improperly took possession of the boat.

A woman sold Lacefield the boat, Day said, but had no right to sell it because she and her husband, whom she was divorcing, owned it together and she kept the money. Day called the government investigation flawed and said Lacefield never received title to the boat and is now out $90,000.

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Comments » 2

fatiguedelavie writes:

Go after the guy from Arkansas then.

marcotime writes:

Ambiguities in the law, No surprise there!!

Youd think that on a $90,000 loss he'd actually want to recover the boat.... there is a whole lot more undisclosed here...

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