His lawyer thinks that Rick Ehlert is guilty of “felony stupidity” but does not think this should be considered a federal crime. Nevertheless, the 45-year-old Ehlert is facing 20 years in jail- and a $250,000 fine- in the United States. His crime? Dropping a cruise ship's anchor at sea when drunk. The incident occurred last November and has now come to trial in Florida.
Ehlert, a California resident, has recently pleaded guilty to one count of attempting to damage a maritime facility. Federal prosecutors in Tampa say that Ehlert was a passenger on a Holland America cruise ship, the MS Ryndham, when he broke into a 'control room area' and let go the 18 tonne anchor into the Gulf of Mexico. The Ryndham was underway on a passage from Costa Maya, Mexico back to Tampa, Florida, at the time. Ehlert was drunk when he broke into the area and let go the anchor; a security camera on the ship caught and recorded the entire incident.
Ehlert and the Ryndham were very lucky on at least two counts: For one, the water was too deep and the anchor did not reach the seabed. Also because there was no major damage to the cruise ship as a consequence of his stupidity.
When the Ryndham's officers confronted Ehlert after the incident, all he had to say is that he was drunk and that the anchor on the cruise ship was similar to the system on his 50-foot recreational boat.