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Va. judge: Coast Guard abused power holding ship

Wednesday - 5/8/2013, 6:58pm  ET

NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (AP) -- A federal judge says the U.S. Coast Guard abused its power by detaining a Maltese-flagged coal ship and its 21-member crew at a Virginia port for weeks over suspected environmental violations.

U.S. District Judge Robert Doumar's order issued Wednesday also found that the Coast Guard acted in an arbitrary and capricious manner and that it caused irreparable damage to the ship's owner, Angelex Ltd.

The Coast Guard detained the Antonis G. Pappadakis in mid-April and demanded a $3 million surety bond before it could leave port. The coal shipment was bound for Brazil.

The company sued to challenge the bond, leading to a hearing Monday in Newport News.

Doumar's order reduced the bond to $1.5 million. In a scathing ruling, Doumar called the Coast Guard's actions "repugnant to the Constitution."

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