A federal judge last Friday ordered the parties in the wrongful death lawsuit tied to the 2015 sinking of the Orin C to adhere to a previous settlement agreement, halting the highly contentious case that was set to go to trial next month in Boston.

But on Tuesday, Joseph Orlando Jr., attorney for the three plaintiffs, appealed the settlement order and dismissal by U.S. District Court Judge Patti B. Saris. In his notice of appeal, Orlando seeks an appellate review to determine whether Saris erred on 11 separate issues in the ramp-up to the civil trial. 

The order by Saris and Orlando's subsequent appeal are the most recent twists and turns in the case that has fixated the city's waterfront amid accusations by Orlando that Gloucester Mayor Sefatia Romeo Theken and others tampered with his expert witness — Gloucester Harbormaster T.J. Ciarametaro — by trying to pressure him to withdraw from the case or be fired from his harbormaster position.

In a motion, Orlando also accused city Chief Administrative Officer James Destino, city General Counsel Chip Payson and local lobsterman and current Massachusetts Lobstermen's Association President Arthur "Sooky" Sawyer of engaging in the pressure campaign.

The tampering accusations are prominent in Orlando's appeal.

In the filed notice of appeal, Orlando seeks an appellate decision on whether Saris erred by failing to "rule substantially" on Orlando's motion for sanctions for the alleged tampering and whether she erred "in failing to report a criminal matter (specifically admitted witness tampering by the defendant's insurer) to the U.S. Department of Justice for criminal investigation."

The bench trial in U.S. District Court in Boston was set to begin July 13 and Saris had set a pre-trial hearing that day on Orlando's motion for sanctions related to the witness tampering accusations.

The lawsuit was filed by Richard Lane and Richard Palmer — surviving crew members on the Orin C — and the estate of David "Heavy D" Sutherland. Sutherland was the owner and captain of the Orin C who died in the water after the disabled slime-eel boat sank while under tow by the Coast Guard back toward Gloucester Harbor.

The defendants are Capt. Philip Powell of Swampscott and his vessel, the Gloucester-ported F/V Foxy Lady. Under maritime law, boats may assume the role of defendants. The lawsuit accuses them of negligence in their efforts to assist the Orin C and its crew.

Powell was the good Samaritan who steamed 16 miles to reach the disabled Orin C on Dec. 3, 2015, and initiated the first stage of what turned out to be a highly problematic tow back to Gloucester. The Coast Guard later assumed command of the tow.  

On Friday, Saris ruled in favor of the defendants' motion to enforce a $120,000 settlement reached during negotiations on May 14. Court papers show the settlement — which pays $10,000 each to Lane and Palmer and $100,000 to Sutherland's estate — devolved when Orlando sought releases from future legal claims for himself and Ciarametaro.

The judge ordered the two sides to comply with the May 14 settlement and dismissed the case.

Contact Sean Horgan at 978-675-2714, or shorgan@gloucestertimes.com. Follow him on Twitter at @SeanGDT

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