Ocean City Today

White Marlin Open trial starts Mon.

Tournament officials think winner violated rules and withheld $2.8M grand prize
By Managing Editor, Lisa Capitelli | May 18, 2017
Philip Heasley and the Kallianassa crew with their 76.5-pound white marlin, caught during the second day of the 43rd annual White Marlin Open, Aug. 9.

(May 19, 2017) The trial in the case involving alleged rules violations by the winner of the 2016 White Marlin Open is scheduled to begin on Monday, May 22 in United States District Court in Baltimore.

Philip Heasley of Naples, Florida, landed the only qualifying white marlin during the 43rd annual White Marlin Open, held Aug. 8-12, and his 76.5-pound catch was worth $2,818,662.

But White Marlin Open organizers announced on Aug. 23 there was a “possible violation” of tournament rules and the prize money would be held pending the determination of the proper recipient.

According to tournament rules, all anglers winning $50,000 or more may be required, at the discretion of the WMO directors, to take and pass, at the determination of the examiner, a polygraph examination. On Aug. 13, Heasley and David Morris, captain of the Kallianassa, took polygraph tests.

According to court documents, analysis of the polygraph data was “not possible and was inconclusive” when Heasley answered “no” to several questions. Tournament officials said “deception” was indicated when Morris was asked the same questions.

Because neither was adjudged to have passed the polygraph examination, Heasley took a second test on Aug. 21. Examinations were also administered to Kallianassa mates Kyle Bohannon and Joseph Hagen.

Tournament officials reviewed the Kallianassa catch report for Aug. 9 upon reading the examiner’s report of Bohannon’s polygraph examination and his pre-test interview when he mentioned the time they put lines in the water.

The time written for Heasley’s boated white marlin on Aug. 9 was initially 8:15 a.m., but it appeared to have been altered to read 9:05 a.m. The time of 8:15 would have been a violation of tournament rules. Lines are not permitted to be in the water until 8:30 a.m.

On Aug. 22, Heasley was advised that he, the Kallianassa captain and two mates – the only ones on the boat – did not pass the polygraph tests and would not receive prize money for the first-place white marlin.

Heasley rejected White Marlin Open’s request to execute a release that would allow tournament officials to distribute the money to 13 winners in the other divisions (blue marlin, tuna, dolphin, wahoo and shark), who were all included as defendants. That was why Open directors felt the need to ask the courts to intercede and make a decision.

The case was moved from Worcester County Circuit Court to U.S. District Court in early September.

On Nov. 18, United States District Court Judge Richard D. Bennett ruled the polygraph test results will be allowed and the case will remain in federal court. The case was also realigned. The 13 other winners in the tournament who were listed as defendants were moved to the plaintiff side. The case was re-titled as “White Marlin Open, Inc. et al. v. Philip G. Heasley.”

In the months leading up to the trial date, including this week, a number of motions and responses were filed.

The case was originally set for trial in September, but it was moved up to May. The 2017 White Marlin Open tournament is scheduled to take place Aug. 7-11.

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