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Prosecution Rests Marine Jet Case

February 24, 1999

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. (AP) _ After listening to 55 prosecution witnesses describe his ill-fated flight, Marine Capt. Richard Ashby will soon get the chance to tell jurors what happened during an accident in the Italian Alps that killed 20 skiers.

Prosecutors called the last of their witnesses Tuesday, wrapping up 11 days of testimony. They were to rest their case today.

The government contends Ashby, 31, of Mission Viejo, Calif., was flying recklessly low and fast a year ago when his EA-6B Prowler severed a ski gondola cable and dropped 20 passengers to their deaths near Cavalese, Italy.

Ashby’s attorneys say he was the victim of a malfunctioning radar altimeter, a map that didn’t have the gondola marked on it and an optical illusion that made him think the plane was higher than it was.

Ashby faces 20 counts of involuntary manslaughter, among other charges, and could be sentenced to more than 200 years in prison if convicted.

The last two government witnesses testified Tuesday that Ashby wasn’t qualified to fly the low-level training route because he hadn’t flown a similar one for seven months.

``For this particular crew that had lapsed in their qualification, it’s a little too much to ask too soon″ said Lt. Col. James Brubaker, a Prowler navigation expert.

Brubaker also said the flight wasn’t conducted properly because the crew didn’t time themselves along the route and were flying too fast.

Navigator Capt. Joseph Schweitzer, 31, of Westbury, N.Y., is to be tried next month on the same involuntary manslaughter charges. Charges were dismissed against the two other men aboard, Capt. William Raney, 27, of Englewood, Colo., and Capt. Chandler Seagraves, 29, of Nineveh, Ind.

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