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Georgia boater seeks early release on BWI conviction

A Georgia man who was convicted of boating while intoxicated after his vessel hit a pontoon boat and killed two boys filed a petition for early release from prison, saying his “good behavior” has not been recognized.

In June 2012, Paul Bennett’s fishing boat collided with a pontoon on Lake Lanier. Two boys — Jake Prince, 9, and Griffin Prince, 13 — were killed.

Bennett was convicted in 2013 on charges of operating a vessel under the influence of alcohol and reckless operation of a vessel. He was acquitted on eight counts of homicide by vessel and received a 2-1/2-year prison sentence in November 2013.

In his Feb. 4 filing, Bennett and his lawyer, Barry Zimmerman, say his “good behavior” days have not been awarded, according to the Gainesville Times.

The petition is for a writ of mandamus, an order from a judge to force the sheriff’s office and the jail to release Bennett.

“To date, the plaintiff has not only been an exemplary inmate exhibiting perfect behavior, but also he has gone above and beyond, volunteering for work and duties within the jail,” according to the petition.

It said Bennett was tasked in October to clean up the blood in the cell of an inmate who died of blunt-force trauma.

Bennett said he confirmed an early release date of Feb. 6 with officers in November, adding that jail officers later “desired to release [him] in November of 2014 ... so that he could be reunited with his family for Thanksgiving,” according to the petition.

This changed, according to the civil action, after a call from the jail to the Hall County District Attorney’s Office, which allegedly told the jail that the “good behavior” credits did not apply.

Hall County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Deputy Nicole Bailes said the BWI conviction “where there was loss of life” excluded Bennett from the “good behavior” allowances.

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