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A New Jersey crew is expected to take $2.3 million in tournament cash in the 2016 White Marlin Open based on a judge's ruling last week, ending one of the longest appeals in tournament sportfishing history.
By Jim Hutchinson, Jr.  |  June 19, 2017
Based on a judge’s ruling on June 14, 2017, Brian Suschke, Rich Kosztyu and Damien Romeo stand to receive another $2.3 million for the 236-1/2-pound tuna brought aboard Romeo’s boat Hubris on August 10, 2016 in the White Marlin Open.

A U.S. District Court judge in Maryland has just ended what is perhaps the longest tournament appeal in sportfishing history, while simultaneously redistributing one of the top tournament purses ever.

After a two-week trial, Judge Richard D. Bennett ruled on June 14, 2017 that the White Marlin Open properly applied the rules of the 2016 tournament in disqualifying Philip Heasley and crew of the Kallianassa for not successfully passing the polygraph examinations as required under the rules of the tournament.

The Court also found that Mr. Heasley and the crew of the Kallianassa violated 2016 White Marlin Open tournament rules by deploying fishing lines before 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, August 9, 2016, the date they caught the 76.5-pound white marlin. Kallianassa’s discredited and disqualified catch had been the only qualifying white marlin in the 2016 White Marlin Open.

Three New Jersey men - Trenton police sergeant Brian Suschke, Trenton firefighter Rich Kosztyu and Lacey Township boat owner Damien Romeo – are expected to land an additional $2.3 million of the money based on the judge’s ruling. The trio, who fished Romeo’s boat, Hubris in the 2016 White Marlin Open, have already won $767,091 for their 236.5-pound tuna at the tournament, the largest payout in the tournament's history for tuna.

It should soon stand as the first $2 million fish in the tournament’s 43-year history.

In a statement following the judge’s ruling, tournament organizers explained how they had come to withhold the $2.8 million purse based on the polygraph examination results. “Instead, to protect the integrity of the tournament and to act in fairness to all participants, White Marlin Open filed an interpleader action in court and asked the Court to determine whether the White Marlin Open directors had acted appropriately in withholding the money from Mr. Heasley,” the statement read.

In a sense of vindication for White Marlin Open’s directors, the court ultimately verified that the White Marlin Open had indeed applied its rules in a fair manner and had the authority to impose the polygraph upon its participants as a way to verify that rules of the tournament were not violated by the winning anglers.

“Throughout the case, the intention of the White Marlin Open directors has been to protect the integrity of the tournament and to ensure that the rules are applied fairly for all participants,” the director said in their statement. “The White Marlin Open, like many other tournaments, has found that the use of polygraphs is an effective method of ensuring compliance with the rules. The White Marlin Open is pleased that its reputation for integrity, built over its 43-year history, has been upheld.”

In releasing their own statement, Heasley’s attorney, Chris Sullivan, said he and his client were obviously disappointed by the ruling. “We maintain that Mr. Heasley and his crew abided by all of the tournament rules and regulations. We are discouraged that the court did not credit the evidence that we provided during the trial. We are reviewing the decision and are considering our options.”

Eight other teams that won money in the tournament are expected to receive varying shares cash based on the tournament's payout rules.

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