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Judge Dismisses Charges Against Yugoslavian Ship Captain

November 21, 1986

CHARLEVOIX, Mich. (AP) _ A judge Thursday dismissed two charges of negligent homicide against a Yugoslavian freighter captain accused in the deaths of two fisherman in Lake Michigan.

The charges against Seman Franko were dismissed by 90th District Court Judge Harvey Varnum shortly after Varnum threw out evidence considered crucial to the prosecution’s case.

Varnum granted a defense motion asking that statements Franko made to U.S. Coast Guard officials be ruled inadmissible. Afterward, Charlevoix County Prosecutor Kraag Lieberman asked that the charges be dropped.

Franko, captain of the freighter Jablanica, had been charged with two counts of negligent homicide in the Aug. 20 accident in which the ship either struck or swamped a fishing tug near Whiskey Island, about 45 miles northwest of Charlevoix in Lake Michigan.

Franko was charged in the deaths of Russell King, 31, of Naubinway and Kirk Peterson, 27, of Manistique, whose bodies were recovered shortly after the accident. He was not charged in the death of a third crewman, Edward Perkins, 47, of Naubinway, whose body was recovered about two weeks later.

The defense had contended that Franko made statements to the Coast Guard without having been read his rights. The testimony of Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Terry McKay had been considered the key to the prosecution’s case.

The Coast Guard, however, prohibited McKay from testifying until its separate investigation is complete, probably in January.

Lieberman had asked Varnum to postpone a preliminary examination, scheduled for Thursday, until McKay would be allowed to testify. But Varnum ruled Thursday that McKay’s testimony could not be allowed.

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