GloucesterTimes.com, Gloucester, MA

November 3, 2011

Fisherman convicted of assault on monitor

By Andrea Holbrook
Staff Writer

A Gloucester fisherman faces six months in prison and a $100,000 fine after being convicted of sexually assaulting a female on-board monitor working under a program of NOAA's Office of Law Enforcement and the National Marine Fisheries Service.

John Cusick, 50, of Gloucester was found guilty by a jury after a four-day trial that ended Oct. 27.

The jury found that, over several days out at sea during a commercial fishing trip in July 2010, Cusick forcibly assaulted, sexually harassed, impeded, interfered with, and intimidated a female federal at-sea monitor who was working on the vessel Sea Farmer II out of Gloucester.

The woman was monitoring and collecting data while the vessel was engaged in a fishing trip. The NOAA fisheries observer program, launched in 2010, installs federally-assigned monitors to keep tabs on fishermen's compliance with the Magnuson-Stevens Act, notably under its new catch share management program.

The program has often sparked friction and drawn fire from New England fishermen, who last year cited examples of poorly prepared or ill-trained monitors tinkering with and damaging some boats' electronic navigational and safety equipment.

According to the indictment, however, Cusick engaged in "hugging her without her consent, and inserting his tongue in her ear while she was engaged in her duties as a federal at-sea monitor ..." toward the end of the fishing trip, on or around July 15, 2010.

The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Suzanne Sullivan of Ortiz's Major Crimes Unit. Sentencing has been set for January.

Andrea Holbrook may be contacted at 978-283-7000 x3456 or aholbrook@gloucestertimes.com.