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First Pirate Conviction in Almost 200 Years

By Jason Beahm on November 30, 2010 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Do you know what the new pirate movie is rated? Arrrr.

Seriously though, we have some real, historic pirate news. A Norfolk, Va. jury found five Somali men guilty of piracy in federal court. The pirate conviction is the first U.S. piracy conviction in nearly 200 years. The five men now face a mandatory minimum sentence of life in prison. The verdict was a victory for prosecutors who recently faced a setback in a similar case after a judge dismissed charges against another alleged pirate.

Bringing pirates to justice has proven difficult. One problem is the expense involved with obtaining a pirate conviction. "The mandatory life sentence makes the price tag on pirate trials quite high, and possibly out of proportion with their culpability compared to other federal crimes," Northwestern law professor Eugene Kontorovich, an expert on the legal fight against piracy, told the Wall Street Journal.

The five men were found guilty of piracy as well as additional offenses for attacking a Navy vessel, the USS Nicholas. The attack came in the Indian Ocean near the Seychelles. Such an attack is illegal under federal law, which says: "Whoever, on the high seas, commits the crime of piracy as defined by the law of nations, and is afterwards brought into or found in the United States, shall be imprisoned for life."

Piracy has been a continuing problem, especially around the lawless waters off of the coast of Somalia. Somali pirates regularly attack ships and hold the vessels and people on board for ransom. International security experts estimate that Somali pirates have taken in $150 million through piracy.

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