Retired Law Enforcement Officer Receives 46 Months in Prison for Cruise Ship Assault

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FILE PHOTO: The U.S. Department of Justice Building is pictured

HONOLULU – United States District Judge Jill A. Otake yesterday sentenced John McAvay, 78, of Henderson, Nevada, to 46 months of imprisonment and one year of supervised release for assault resulting in serious bodily injury. Judge Otake found McAvay guilty of the assault after a non-jury trial in May 2022.

Clare E. Connors, United States Attorney, said that according to court documents and information presented in court, on October 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. 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 February 6, 2019. McAvay was arrested on October 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, Judge Otake found, posed “no threat” to McAvay. Judge Otake added: “There is also no doubt that Defendant McAvay acted cowardly, reprehensibly, and despicably.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Coast Guard Investigative Service conducted the investigation that resulted in the prosecution. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sara D. Ayabe and Chris A. Thomas handled the prosecution.