- Associated Press - Tuesday, March 29, 2011

CAMP PENDLETON, Calif. (AP) — The highest-ranking member of the U.S. Coast Guard crew involved in a collision with a pleasure boat that killed an 8-year-old boy in San Diego Bay pleaded guilty on Tuesday to a charge of dereliction of duty.

Petty Officer 2nd Class Ian Howell will request immediate discharge from the Coast Guard as part of an agreement ahead of his court-martial. He may face other penalties in a sentencing hearing under way at Camp Pendleton, north of San Diego.

An attorney for the family of the boy, Anthony DeWeese, wasn’t immediately available to comment because he was attending the military trial.

The trial came a day after the Coast Guard announced it had dropped the most serious charges of negligent homicide, assault and negligence with a boat against Howell.

Last week, the driver of the Coast Guard boat, Petty Officer 3rd Class Paul Ramos, was sentenced to three months in the brig for dereliction of duty for his role in the crash a little more than a year ago.

Ramos, 22, was piloting a 33-foot patrol craft during San Diego’s annual Christmas Parade in 2009 when it crashed into a boat driven by Alan DeWeese, the child’s father. The 8-year-old was killed, and five other people were injured.

Jurors acquitted Ramos of the most serious charge he faced — involuntary manslaughter — which would have carried a maximum sentence of 10 years. They also found him not guilty of three other charges — negligent homicide, aggravated assault and hazarding a vessel.

During the two-week court-martial at Coast Guard headquarters in Alameda, prosecutors said Ramos was driving too fast and failed to follow safety procedures. The defense maintained he was going at a safe speed and that the DeWeeses’ boat wasn’t properly lit.

Two other Coast Guard crew members were charged in the collision. Petty Officer Brittany Rasmussen was reprimanded but avoided time in the brig after pleading guilty to dereliction of duty in military court. A charge of dereliction of duty was dropped against Petty Officer Lavelle Teague.

The National Transportation Safety Board has not said what caused the collision.

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