I have previously discussed that my firm represented the parents of George Smith, who disappeared during his honeymoon cruise aboard a Royal Caribbean cruise ship, the Brilliance of the Seas in June of 2005.
I, along with the parents, went on a relentless mission to try to gather evidence to help solve the mystery. We faced many roadblocks, the main one being the cruise line’s reluctance to share information with the Smith family about what happened to their son. The F.B.I. was not allowed to share information as it was always described as an ongoing investigation. The Smith family became very disappointed and disillusioned, and extremely frustrated.
In the meantime, the cruise ship company secretly entered into a settlement agreement with George Smith’s wife, Jennifer Hagel Smith. The settlement initially was reached without the participation of myself or the Smith family, and was another significant roadblock hit by the Smith family because it denied them the best opportunity to gather important information, which was the discovery process that was going to take place during a wrongful death lawsuit. The Smith family didn’t give up and decided to challenge the settlement agreement the cruise line company had negotiated with the wife. After a long legal battle in the probate court in Connecticut, the cruise line settled with the Smith family and with Jennifer Hagel Smith for a settlement over $1 million, as well as an agreement to provide some additional information that they previously had not agreed to release to the Smith family.
The case still remained a mystery, and the Smith family still was advised that the case was an open investigation with the F.B.I.
I received a call today from somebody from the Today Show advising that the F.B.I. was making an arrest in the case based on a recorded statement that had been obtained. I don’t have any further details at this moment.
The delay in any arrest taking place in this matter has been attributed to the inadequate investigation that took place at the time of the reported disappearance being discovered. There were allegations that the cruise ship’s actions in the aftermath of learning of the disappearance interfered with an appropriate investigation, and valuable evidence was lost. In addition, the issues regarding who had jurisdiction to conduct the investigation was also a factor in the delay of the F.B.I. getting involved.
Following the disappearance there were Congressional Hearings held which addressed crimes and disappearances aboard cruise ships, how to deal with preventing them, as well as reporting of them and appropriate investigation procedures in order to properly preserve evidence. I testified as an invited maritime expert.
As soon as more details are released regarding an arrest, I will report on it.