Thiel trial comes to a close: Jury sent to deliberate

Published: Apr. 21, 2022 at 6:19 PM CDT
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DAVENPORT, Iowa (KWQC) - On Thursday afternoon the jury began to deliberate the fate of 45-year-old James Thiel, a Pleasant Valley man who faces four counts of involuntary manslaughter for a 2020 boat crash that killed Dr. Anita Pinc and Craig Verbeke, of LeClaire.

Prosecutors argued at the trial that Thiel was intoxicated and allowed his 15-year-old son to speed-race his Triton boat against their friend Ethan Mahler’s boat on the way to a Barbeque on August 16, 2020.

Thiel’s boat, having been driven in a reckless manner, according to the prosecution, crashed head-on into Dr. Pinc and Verbeke’s Bayliner boat.

Prosecutors told jurors Thursday that by allowing his son to drive the boat in a careless manner, Thiel aided and abetted in the deaths of Dr. Pinc and Verbeke.

“What happened was that the Triton, the defendant and his son were racing Ethan Mahler because they have the big fast boats to do so,” said Amy DeVine, the Prosecutor’s attorney, “at the last minute, [Thiel’s son]panicked and turned the wrong way.”

The defense argued that it was the Bayliner that ran into the Triton, citing witnesses who said they had seen Verbeke driving erratically. Toxicology reports found Verbeke was intoxicated past the legal .08 limit at the time of the crash.

Attorney Leon Spies finished his argument by stating that Thiel could only be found guilty on all four counts if the jury agreed his son was actively trying to commit a crime, and if Thiel was encouraging it.

“Things happen to us, accidents, misfortunes but that doesn’t mean a crime has occurred,” said Spies, “recklessness was in every charge in this case so you have to find that.”

Prosecutors argued in their rebuttal that Thiel aided and abetted by allowing his son to carelessly drive the boat.

Jurors were dismissed at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday and will continue their deliberation Friday in Scott County District Court.

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