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Lawyers for man convicted in deadly LeClaire boat crash request new trial

The lawyers of James Thiel, 45, motioned June 8 for a new trial. Thiel was found guilty of two counts of aggravated misdemeanor involuntary manslaughter.

DAVENPORT, Iowa — Over a month after a jury convicted him on two counts of involuntary manslaughter in an August 2020 boat crash that killed two people, James Thiel's lawyers are requesting a new trial. 

On April 25, Thiel, 45, was found guilty on two counts of aggravated misdemeanor involuntary manslaughter and not guilty on two counts of felony involuntary manslaughter. His lawyers filed a motion on June 8 for a new trial.

A person convicted of an aggravated misdemeanor faces up to two years in prison and a fine between $625 and $6,250, according to Iowa law.

The fatal incident occurred on Aug. 16, 2020, when Thiel's boat was traveling at an excessive speed on the Mississippi River. Thiel was helping his then 15-year-old son drive while they were allegedly racing a boat operator by Ethan Mahler.

Thiel's boat struck the backside of another boat, killing two adults and a dog on board. The victims were identified as 61-year-old Craig Verbeke and 52-year-old Dr. Anita Pinc.

Pinc and the dog were pronounced dead at the scene. Verbeke was hospitalized and died three days later as a result of his injuries, according to court documents.

Throughout the two-week trial, prosecutors noted that, under law, boats must veer to the right when approaching one another. Thiel's boat reportedly veered left towards Verbeke in the fatal collision.

"(The) crash caused the death of Craig Verbeke and Anita Pinc," said Assistant Scott County State's Attorney Amy Devine during closing statements on April 21. "The evidence and the testimony presented in this case prove that beyond a reasonable doubt."

The alleged boat racing was denied by Thiel's defense lawyer, Leon Spies. He argued Thiel was permitted to take evasive action.

"We can't, as I reminded you at the outset, be blinded by that sympathy and that urge to find fault," Spies said during closing statements.

Spies argued the judge should have entered a judgment of acquittal before the case went to the jury.

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