Macon man booked on misdemeanor charges in boating death


A 64-year-old Macon man was booked and arrested on Wednesday in connection with a boating death on Lake Sinclair back in October.

Richard Venable Reed was charged with one count of second degree homicide by vessel and one count of operating vessel within 100 feet of an object. Both are misdemeanors. According to the arrest warrants, "the accused knowingly and willfully operated his 2014 Phoenix 721 XP Vessel within 11 feet of an occupied 2011 Lowe Stryker Vessel, located in the cove on Lake Sinclair" in the vicinity of "the Baldwin County Regional Airport and Baum Bay Drive."

The victim – George Ralph Harper – was out celebrating his 80th birthday with a fishing expedition on the day of the incident, according to published reports.

“The operator didn’t see a fishing boat idling in close proximity,”wrote the Georgia Department of Natural Resources following its investigation. “Once the operator saw the second vessel, he attempted to steer away, but he struck the fishing boat, rendering a passenger in that boat unconscious and not breathing.” 

The Baldwin County Coroner's Office ultimately ruled the cause of death as "blunt force trauma."

Seeing the words "misdemeanor" and "homicide" may seem counterintuitive for many people. However, homicide by vessel and its close cousin, vehicular homicide, can be either a felony or misdemeanor, based on aggravating circumstances, most often the blood alcohol level of the accused. Based on the misdemeanor charge, investigators concluded that Reed was not intoxicated at the time of the accident. According to the Official Code of Georgia:

Any person who causes the death of another person, without an intention to do so...commits the offense of homicide by vessel in the second degree when such violation is the cause of said death. A person convicted under this subsection shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be punished as provided in Code Section 17-10-3.

A conviction is punishable by "a fine not to exceed $1,000.00 or by confinement in the county jail, county correctional institution...for a total term not to exceed 12 months, or both." 

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