Linda O’Leary, the wife of Shark Tank‘s Kevin O’Leary, was acquitted Tuesday in connection with the August 2019 boat crash that killed two people and injured three others in Canada, reports the CBC. Linda O’Leary, the wife of Shark Tank star Kevin O’Leary, was accused of negligent operation of a vessel in accordance with the Canada Shipping Act. This happened after a terrible accident at Lake Joseph north Toronto. The legal proceedings have been ongoing for more than two years.
Richard Humphrey from the Ontario court delivered the verdict Tuesday morning. He said that the prosecution had failed to prove beyond any reasonable doubt that Linda was operating her boat without due care or consideration of others. The judge also ruled there was insufficient evidence to determine the speed at which her boat was traveling and what speed would have been appropriate under the circumstances, according to the CBC, and that alcohol played no part in the crash. The judge also ruled the boat that was struck had its lights off, despite passenger testimony saying some of the lights were on, which became a central point of the trial.
Linda was driving a smaller boat at the time of the crash, and collided with a larger ship that was stopped. Two people, Gary Potash & Susanne Brito, were killed when O’Leary’s vessel sailed over the bow of another boat. In the accident, three others were also hurt. Linda was the designated driver and Linda was the O’Leary couple’s friend.
The Shark Tank star issued a statement in August 2019 after the crash to PEOPLE, saying, “On late Saturday night I was a passenger in a boat that was involved in a tragic collision with another watercraft that had no navigation lights on and then fled the scene. I am fully cooperating with law enforcement in their investigation. Out of respect for the victims’ families and to fully support the ongoing investigation I feel it is inappropriate to make further comments at this time. My heartfelt prayers and condolences to the victims, the families and those affected by this loss.”
During The Trial
Amid the trial, the question of whether or not the Super Air Nautique, which had been carrying 12 passengers on that August 2019 night, had its lights on had been a point of contention, with Linda’s attorney, Brian Greenspan, arguing that there is no “reasonable evidential foundation” that the O’Leary’s could see the second vessel before the deadly collision.
Greenspan requested that the court treat the testimony of witnesses from the second vessel, who stated they remembered there being lights on the boat, with caution during closing arguments. Greenspan referenced video footage that was released in the course of the investigation and trial, showing the Nautique lacking navigation lights. He also referred to witness evidence from O’Leary cottage workers who stated there was no light on the boat from the time it collided.
In his own testimony, O’Leary said there was “zero light” on the Nautique and “you have to work very hard to make a boat that size be that dark.” Greenspan told the court, according to the CBC, “There can be no rational, reasonable evidential foundation for a suggestion that the Nautique was anything other than invisible to Mrs. O’Leary on that dark, moonless night,”
During the trial, the Crown argued that Linda, who operated the couple’s Cobalt boat that night, should have been driving slower than the “planing” speed she drove at and that not doing so, constituted careless operation of the boat under the circumstances. Samir Adam, the federal prosecutor, told the court, “They assumed, wrongly, that if they didn’t see any lights, there was nothing in their way. This is clearly in contravention of the collision regulations and a breach of Linda’s duty to not operate her vessel in a careless manner.” He also pointed to O’Leary’s statement to police and court testimony that the other boat became visible “at a distance of five feet,” arguing this as evidence the Nautique wasn’t invisible. However, according to Greenspan, Linda “was doing all the right things at the right time when this terrible tragedy occurred.” In his closing statements, Greenspan said, “The Crown’s case, in our submission, is one of conjecture and speculation.”
After the court previously heard testimony from a police officer who said Linda registered an “alert range” level of blood alcohol on a breath test taken just after the crash and admitted to having consumed one drink after the collision, O’Leary testified on Wednesday that he did not recall his wife’s alcohol consumption. According to CTV News, the businessman recounted the hours before the fatal collision, telling the court that he and his wife had been at a dinner party at a cottage near Lake Joseph before the accident. The gathering featured wine at 2 p.m., followed by lunch at 7 p.m., and cocktails at the dinner party at 7.
According to O’Leary, who testified that he consumed alcohol, it had been decided that afternoon that Linda would be the group’s designated driver and “she knows if she’s the designated driver, she’s got to be very conscious about consuming alcohol.” However, O’Leary said he was unable to remember if his wife consumed any alcohol prior to the crash, explaining that while she “might have” had a single drink, it was “probably a watered-down one because she was (the designated driver).”