Wed, Apr 10, 2002 - Page 2 News List

Cook `innocent' of boat murders

MUTINY A Chinese man who allegedly stabbed to death his captain and the first mate of a Taiwanese fishing vessel pleaded innocent to the charges

AP , HONOLULU, HAWAII

A Chinese cook has pleaded innocent to charges he fatally stabbed the captain and first mate during an argument aboard a Taiwanese fishing vessel.

When asked if he had read the complaint against him and whether he understood the charges, Lei Shi answered, "Yes," through an interpreter during an arraignment hearing on Monday. He did not comment further.

Federal public defender Pamela Byrne entered the innocent plea on Shi's behalf.

The trial was scheduled for Sept. 4 at the request of the attorneys, who asked for more time to prepare because of the complex issues involved in the case, including whether the death penalty will be sought.

US Attorney General John Ashcroft is to decide whether the death penalty would be appropriate.

Shi is accused of stabbing his Taiwanese captain, Chen Sung-she and Chinese first mate, Li Dafeng, during an argument on March 14 before hijacking the ship on the high seas south of Hawaii.

The other crew members later regained control of the ship, Full Means 2 (富名二號), before pulling into Hawaiian waters late last month.

At the arraignment, Byrne asked US Magistrate Kevin S.C. Chang to consider loosening some of the restrictions that have been imposed on Shi since his March 21 arrest.

Byrne said Shi still has not been able to call his family in China and is kept in solitary confinement 23 hours a day without permission to read newspapers, magazines or listen to the radio.

"His confinement has been far more constraining than I think is appropriate," Byrne said.

Byrne asked that Shi, who is being held at a federal detention center near Honolulu International Airport, either be released into the general population or be allowed to read newspapers and magazines.

Chang scheduled a hearing on the matter later this week so he can hear testimony from the Federal Bureau of Prisons.

He noted that 30 crew members taken into custody as material witnesses also are being held at the federal detention center and he did not want to risk having Shi come into contact with any of them.

The Full Means 2 remains docked at Honolulu Harbor.

A skeleton replacement crew of Japanese sailors arrived last week and had planned to depart on Sunday when attorneys for the Chinese crew members obtained a federal court order seeking to ensure they are paid past wages.

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