Timothy Juettner leaves the federal courthouse in Central Islip on...

Timothy Juettner leaves the federal courthouse in Central Islip on Wednesday. Credit: John Roca

A Smithtown fishing boat captain who deliberately destroyed and sank a vessel in the Atlantic Ocean to dodge the expense of having the damaged ship lawfully retired avoided prison time when he was sentenced in federal court Wednesday.

United States District Court Judge Joan Azrack sentenced Timothy Juettner, 55, who owned and operated the North Star out of Captree State Park in Bay Shore, to six months of house arrest with permission to continue working and two years of probation. He had pleaded guilty in July 2021 to causing the destruction of a vessel, intentionally wrecking a vessel, conspiring to wreck a vessel and making materially false statements.

“He will be a felon … He does not belong in a federal prison,” Azrack said, noting that Juettner has endured financial struggles throughout his life and is a “loyal husband and father.”

Prosecutors had recommended Juettner serve six months behind bars, saying he lied to U.S. Coast Guard investigators who questioned him about the ship’s sinking and that he put the lives of others who helped him at risk that night.

Juettner and three friends used another of his fishing boats to tow the North Star, which had an inoperable transmission, 12 miles off the shore of Fire Island at midnight on Oct. 8, 2018, according to court records. In rough seas, Juettner sawed off the cooling pipe so the boat would take on water and then dropped an anchor in order to tip the boat into the waves, according to sentencing documents.

From sea that night, Juettner sent several text messages to his wife indicating that the waves were choppy and one of the men on board the other boat was drunk, according to sentencing documents. The North Star did not actually sink until around 7 a.m., prosecutors said.

When questioned by Coast Guard investigators in January 2020, Juettner said that while he had initially intended to sink the ship to make it a fish sanctuary it ultimately sank by accident, prosecutors said.

“He lied because he knew what he did was wrong,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Megan Farrell told Azrack.

While Juettner removed the insurance from the boat and never filed a fraudulent insurance claim, the Coast Guard said he avoided an estimated $30,000 in expenses he would have been forced to pay to legally abandon the boat, a dollar amount disputed by his court-appointed attorney, Charles Millioen, of Federal Defenders of New York.

Millioen said Juettner will likely lose his captain’s license as a result of his conviction.

Before sentencing, Juettner told the court it was an “old-school train of thought” that got him in trouble after he consulted with older fishermen who gave him “bad info.”

“The Great South Bay is littered with small boats put down for fish estuaries,” he told Azrack. “It was a dumb mistake I should have never made.”

Farrell described it as a “very risky thing to do, even for experienced mariners.”

Thomas Jordan, a co-defendant who assisted Juettner in carrying out the scheme, also pleaded guilty and was sentenced to three years of probation last December. Prosecutors said the other two men who assisted them were unaware of the details of the plan and never faced criminal charges.

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