Captain Kathe Fannon has shared the Florida waters with former fisherman John Yates for years. Yates’ career was yanked from him by the federal government — and his freedom hung in the balance.
In 2007, while fishing in the open waters, Yates was cited by local wildlife authorities for possessing three fish that were each one inch too small. On his return to the docks, Yates allegedly threw the three fish overboard.
That’s when the story took a dramatic turn. Instead of being ticketed for the minor offense, federal authorities jumped in and charged Yates with violating the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, a white-collar criminal law intended to prosecute financial crimes by companies like Enron, and prevent them from concealing evidence or destroying records and documents – known as “tangible objects” — in a government investigation.
Yates faced up to 20 years in federal prison for each fish he tossed into the ocean. While the violation may not be in question, what was in question is the government’s use of laws intended to punish white collar crimes — not fishermen.
In 2014, Yates’ case was heard by the United States Supreme Court and in 2015, the Court ruled in favor of Yates in a 5-4 decision.