Cosco Busan pilot’s trial to start in fall

The trial of Petaluma pilot John Cota and shipping company Fleet Management on charges stemming from the Cosco Busan oil spill might begin 10 days after the one-year anniversary of the environmental disaster.

Cota, 60, who was piloting the container ship Cosco Busan when it hit a protective fender of the Bay Bridge last fall, was originally due to go on trial Oct. 6 on two charges. The accident caused nearly 54,000 gallons of heavy bunker fuel to spill into the Bay on Nov. 7, 2007.

U.S. District Judge Susan Illston set a tentative Nov. 17 trial date Friday despite protests from Cota’s attorney that the Nov. 7 anniversary of the fuel spill could stir up “stories and other negative comments that make it difficult for Mr. Cota to get a fair trial.”

The judge scheduled the next status conference for Aug. 15.

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