Convicted Vancouver Island drug trafficker argues U.S. had no authority to search boat
John Philip Stirling was arrested after his boat was seized off the Oregon coast on April 9, 2019. (Multnomah County Sheriff's Office)
VICTORIA -- A Vancouver Island man who was arrested by U.S. authorities after nearly 750 litres of liquid methamphetamine was allegedly found aboard his boat, is appealing to have his case thrown out, arguing the U.S. has no jurisdiction in the matter.
John Philip Stirling, 65, was arrested in April after a routine U.S. Coast Guard patrol picked up his vessel 225 nautical miles (417 kilometres) from the Oregon coast, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Oregon.
According to court documents, Stirling's vessel, called the Mandalay, had a home port of Seattle and bore visible U.S. registration numbers when it was approached.
When the Coast Guard tried to communicate with Stirling, he "went below deck and would only respond via VHF radio," according to the attorney's office.
Coast Guard personnel boarded the vessel and the attorney's office says Stirling refused to provide identification or vessel documentation.
"Upon further questioning, Stirling’s speech began to deteriorate and he displayed signs of a possible drug overdose," the attorney's office said.
Stirling was airlifted from the vessel by helicopter to Astoria, Ore. and later transported to hospital in Portland.
The attorney's office says a search of the Mandalay turned up 28 seven-gallon (26.5-litre) jugs of liquid meth. Stirling has been held in the Multnomah County Inverness Jail in Portland ever since.
His lawyer, Lisa Hay, tells CTV News that on Dec. 18 she will argue to have the case tossed, citing a lack of U.S. jurisdiction.
"Because Mr. Stirling, while on the high seas and outside the territorial jurisdiction of the United States, informed inquiring law enforcement officers of his Canadian citizenship and declared his vessel of Canadian nationality, the government must demonstrate a nexus to the United States or assert other grounds for jurisdiction to avoid dismissal," reads the motion to dismiss.
Stirling's arrest came just one year after he was released after serving most of a seven-and-a-half-year sentence handed down by a Florida judge in 2013.
In that case, Stirling had taken a plea agreement on a charge of conspiracy to possess with the intent to distribute narcotics, after admitting to a Southern District of Florida court that he was the master of a vessel containing 381 kilograms of cocaine and one kilogram of heroin when it was boarded by U.S. authorities off the coast of Colombia.