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Jury selection begins in trial of man accused in Prince boys boat wreck
paul bennett
Paul Bennett

Jury selection is set to begin today in the trial of Paul J. Bennett, charged with homicide in a June 18, 2012, boat collision that killed two boys.

Bennett, 45, of Cumming is charged with eight counts of homicide by vessel, failing to render aid, reckless operation of a vessel and boating under the influence.

Buford boy Jake Prince, 9, was killed on impact, authorities said. Divers located the body of his brother Griffin, 13, after nine days of searching.

The state offered Bennett a sentence of 30 years’ probation with eight years in prison, which his attorney, Barry Zimmerman of Norcross, has declined.

At a Sept. 25 hearing, District Attorney Lee Darragh, the lead prosecutor on the case, said he would not accept a sentence with no time in prison.

“(Bennett’s lawyers) have asked for straight probation, which I will not accept,” Darragh told Judge Kathlene Gosselin at the hearing.

If convicted, each of the homicide by vessel counts carries a three-year minimum and 15-year maximum sentence. Bennett’s other charges are misdemeanors that each carry a maximum one-year sentence.

The parents of Jake and Griffin Prince expressed disappointment with the likelihood of an impending trial on a Facebook page in their sons’ memory.

“Paul Bennett, the man who killed our children, was offered a deal by the District Attorney. They were hoping to spare our family and our dear friends further pain and suffering. Paul Bennett has rejected the deal and has decided instead to fight all the charges and force us to endure a trial,” the post read. “He still has the option to accept the deal at any time. We are praying that he will. If he won’t, we are praying for the strength to make it through what will be a very painful trial.”

The wreck and another later last summer that killed 11-year-old Kile Glover spurred legislation in the state.

Senate Bill 136, signed in April, was split into the “Jake and Griffin Prince BUI Law,” which lowered the legal alcohol limit for boaters from 0.10 to 0.08, and the “Kile Glover Boat Education Law,” which requires life vests for children under 13, up from ages 9 and under.

A safety education requirement of the bill goes into effect in 2014. Anyone born after Jan. 1, 1998, will be required to complete a boater safety course before he or she can operate a watercraft in Georgia.

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