The Atlantic

Exclusive: ACLU Alleges Coast Guard Detained and Abused Fishermen

A lawsuit says the agency accused innocent men of drug smuggling, chained them to decks, and sailed with them straight into a hurricane.
Source: Courtesy of the ACLU

Updated at 3:16 p.m. ET

One night in the fall of 2017, four Jamaican fishermen set out into the Caribbean from the village of Half Moon Bay. As a lawsuit filed today describes it, their quest for tuna and snapper was supposed to last about two days. Then they disappeared.

Five weeks later, those men—Robert Dexter Weir, Patrick Wayne Ferguson, Luther Fian Patterson, and David Roderick Williams—reemerged in Miami, covered in burns and blisters, according to the American Civil Liberties Union. United States Coast Guard officers had snatched them off their boat on suspicion of marijuana smuggling, then held them at sea for more than a month, shuffling them among various vessels en route to the U.S. to face trial, alleges the ACLU, which is suing the Coast Guard on the men’s behalf. The ACLU claims that Coast Guard officers chained the fishermen up on decks exposed to the elements—even while sailing straight through Hurricane Maria—fed them little, and denied them contact with their loved ones. When they finally reached a U.S. courtroom, they were never convicted of a

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