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Fatal LeClaire boat crash: Jury finds Thiel guilty on 2 counts involuntary manslaughter

James Thiel of Pleasant Valley was found guilty of two counts of aggravated misdemeanor involuntary manslaughter for the collision.

DAVENPORT, Iowa — After a two-week trial at the Scott County Courthouse, the jury delivered a verdict Monday, April 25 in the August 2020 LeClaire boating collision that left a Moline couple dead.

Shortly before 2 p.m. Monday, the jury found 45-year-old James Thiel Sr. not guilty on two counts of felony involuntary manslaughter and guilty on two counts of aggravated misdemeanor involuntary manslaughter.

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

On August 16, 2020, Thiel's boat was traveling at an excessive speed on the Mississippi River before colliding with the backside of a boat containing Craig Verbeke, 61; Anita Pinc, 52; and their dog. Thiel was helping his son, a minor, operate the boat and was racing a third boat operated by Ethan Mahler before the collision.

Credit: The Group
Dr. Anita Pinc and Craig Verbeke both died from their injuries from an Aug. 16 boating accident in LeClaire, Iowa

Pinc and the dog died at the scene of the crash. Verbeke was hospitalized and died three days later due to his injuries, according to court documents.

Throughout the trial, prosecutors noted that under law, boats must go to the right when approaching one another, and Thiel's boat allegedly went to the left towards Verbeke, resulting in the fatal collision.

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

RELATED: Jury hears closing arguments in LeClaire boat crash trial, begins deliberations

Thiel's defense lawyer, Leon Spies, denied any racing between the boats and 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 Thursday.

Both parties will work together to determine a date for Thiel's sentencing, Judge Patrick McElyea said in court Monday.

Thiel still faces two wrongful death lawsuits filed by the families of Verbeke and Pinc back in October.

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