Retired Law Enforcement Officer Sentenced to 46 Months for Cruise Ship Assault

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A Nevada man was sentenced to nearly four years imprisonment and one year of supervised release after he was found guilty for assaulting an elderly passenger while on a cruise ship in Hilo in 2018.

On Monday, 78-year-old John McAvay appeared before United States District Judge Jill A. Otake who found the man guilty of assault after a non-jury trial in May. Clare E. Connors, United States Attorney, said that according to court documents and information presented in court, on Oct. 23, 2018, McAvay — a retired law enforcement officer — committed an unprovoked assault on an elderly passenger on a cruise ship, resulting in life-threatening and protracted injuries.

“McAvay then fled the scene of the assault and failed to render aid, call for help, or report the incident,” according to court documents. “The victim was airlifted from the cruise ship to the Hilo Medical Center in critical condition on October 25, 2018, and then to the Queen’s Medical Center, where he remained hospitalized for approximately one month.”

The victim was later transported to a hospital in California and then to a rehabilitation facility. As a result of the assault, the victim suffered from serious cognitive and physical impairments—including confusion, memory loss, and immobility—until his death on Feb. 6, 2019.


McAvay was arrested on Oct. 28, 2018, after he was identified by another cruise ship passenger.

In finding McAvay guilty, Judge Otake stated that although McAvay “could have simply walked away,” he instead “sucker-punched” the victim in the head out of anger. The victim, Otake found, posed “no threat” to McAvay. Judge Otake added: “There is also no doubt that Defendant McAvay acted cowardly, reprehensibly, and despicably.”

McAvay was also charged with involuntary manslaughter. The court found him not guilty of this count because it could not conclude beyond a reasonable doubt that a pre-existing cancer alone would not have caused his death.



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