Judge Rules Against Angler in White Marlin Open Trial - WBOC-TV 16, Delmarvas News Leader, FOX 21 -

Judge Rules Against Angler in White Marlin Open Trial

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Last year's White Marlin Open (Photo: WBOC) Last year's White Marlin Open (Photo: WBOC)

BALTIMORE- A judge on Wednesday ruled against the winner of last year's White Marlin Open tournament, meaning he has been disqualified and will not receive the $2.8 million prize money. 

Judge Richard D. Bennett's decision against fisherman Phil Heasley of Naples, Fla., came a week and a half after the two-week federal trial wrapped up in Baltimore. 

Heasley reeled in last year's biggest white marlin - weighing in a 76.5 pounds- worth $2.8 million. However, after the tournament, Heasley and his crew aboard the Kallianassa failed the polygraph tests administered to them and were disqualified. 

The polygraph tests were at the center of the trial. While Heasley's attorneys tried to discredit their validity, the White Marlin Open's attorneys called its own polygraph expert to testify in their favor. 

Also during courtroom testimony, tournament officials said they became suspicious of Heasley and his boatmates when the time they claimed they caught their prize winning white marlin was scratched out in the boat's log and replaced with a different one. Heasley said he could not answer questions about specific times on that day because he does not wear a watch, and never has. He also said he did not read over the rules of the tournament thoroughly before it started. 

In his decision Wednesday, Bennett ruled that the White Marlin Open properly applied the rules of the tournament to the 2016 event, including in its administration of the polygraph tests, which were required under the rules of the tournament. The court also found that Heasley and the crew of the Kallianassa violated the tournament rules by deploying fishing lines before 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 9, 2016, the date they caught the 76.5 pound white marlin.

In a statement posted on its website, the White Marlin Open wrote, "Throughout the case, the intention of the White Marlin Open directors has been to protect the integrity of the tournament and to ensure that the rules are applied fairly for all participants.  The White Marlin Open, like many other tournaments, has found that the use of polygraphs is an effective method of ensuring compliance with the rules.  The White Marlin Open is pleased that its reputation for integrity, built over its forty-three-year history, has been upheld.

"As the 2017 tournament approaches, the tournament directors are determined to continue the fair and impartial application of the tournament rules so that all participants have confidence in the results of the tournament.  The tournament directors are committed to maintaining the tournament as an open and enjoyable experience for all anglers, whether professional or amateur, who participate in this world recognized event."

Wednesday's decision only determined whether Heasley would receive the prize money. A judge will determine at a later date how the money will be distributed. The money could be divided up by more than a dozen other fishermen.  

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