Sports Fisherman, Who Won White Marlin Open, Appeals Finding that He Cheated

Aug 18, 2017

The 2016 winner of the White Marlin Open has appealed a U.S. District Court decision, which favored the tournament and its proposition that the man cheated when he caught the fish before the event started.
Plaintiff Philip Heasley, owner of the boat Kallianassa, claimed the ruling “was fundamentally wrong (because) the judge based much of his ruling on a deeply flawed assumption, and discarded facts, evidence and eyewitness testimony that contradicted it.”
Heasley said his attorneys will focus the appeal on two areas:
“The finding that the Kallianassa put fishing lines in the water early: The judge misinterpreted a statement made in deposition that it takes 15 to 20 minutes to get the lines into the water. In reality, that preparatory work is done on the deck and the lines are then dropped into the water at the 8:30 a.m. start time, taking one to four minutes. Dismayingly, the judge clung to this statement and then extrapolated that the boat was at trolling speed because the lines were down, when in fact it was because the baiting of hooks and other preparatory work was underway. The judge further ignored eyewitness testimony from the captain and mate of a competing fishing boat, who testified that they were in close proximity to the Kallianassa and that they did not see any lines in the water prior to 8:30 a.m. start time.
“2. The court based its decision on polygraphs, which are generally not admissible in federal court because they are unreliable: The problems with the polygraphs are legion. To touch on a few:
The polygraph examiners who gave the tests admitted they gave a certain type of polygraph, where the polygraph standards referenced in the tournament rules required that a different type of polygraph be given. As a result, the polygraph examiners gave incomplete tests.
One polygraph examiner who administered the test testified in court that he did not understand the rules of the White Marlin Open tournament, nor of the International Game Fish Association (IGFA). As a result, he asked general questions that were so broad, they did not even apply to catching the winning fish.
One polygraph examiner was unfamiliar with the polygraph standards of the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), which are safeguards to ensure that a polygraph is administered properly (even with these in place, there are still reliability issues with polygraphs).
One polygraph examiner used an outdated polygraph technique, called the “Relevant/Irrelevant” test, which has been rejected by the polygraph community as scientifically invalid because it does not have much better than 50-50 accuracy.”
Heasley’s attorneys added that tournament directors “did not disqualify Heasley, nor did any other competitor lodge a single complaint. Instead, the White Marlin Open directors declined to make a determination and sent it to the court despite Heasley’s several requests to describe the catch and present his boat’s electronic information directly to the tournament directors. The court then based its ruling on a combination of unreliable polygraphs and false assumptions.”
The case in question is White Marlin Open et al. vs Heasley, RDB-16-3105. At the time of the district court’s ruling, the White Marlin Open released the following statement on its Facebook page:
“After a two-week trial in United States District Court for the District of Maryland, the Honorable Richard D. Bennett has ruled that the White Marlin Open properly applied the rules of the tournament to the 2016 White Marlin Open. Philip Heasley, one of the anglers in the 2016 Tournament, and his crew members aboard the Kallianassa, had not passed polygraph examinations, which were required under the rules of the tournament. The Court also found that Mr. Heasley and the crew of the Kallianassa violated the Tournament Rules by deploying fishing lines before 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, August 9, 2016, the date they caught the 76.5 pound white marlin.
“As a result of the polygraph examination results, White Marlin Open did not pay the prize money of Two Million Eight Hundred Eighteen Thousand Dollars ($2,818, 000.00) to Mr. Heasley. Instead, to protect the integrity of the tournament and to act in fairness to all participants, White Marlin Open filed an interpleader action in court and asked the Court to determine whether the White Marlin Open directors had acted appropriately in withholding the money from Mr. Heasley.
“In a two-week trial, White Marlin Open put on evidence of the appropriateness of the polygraph examinations, and the reasonableness of its actions in withholding the prize money under the tournament rules. The court verified that White Marlin Open, Inc., had applied its rules in a fair manner, had the authority to impose the polygraph upon its participants as a way to verify that rules of the tournament were not violated by the winning anglers.”


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