American Captain Surrenders License After Sexual Assault Accusations

Capt. John Merrone in a booking photo from 2011 (Florida Department of Corrections)

Published Nov 1, 2022 10:02 PM by The Maritime Executive

A master mariner who was accused of sexually assaulting two USMMA cadets has surrendered his license, the U.S. Coast Guard has informed a local news outlet in Long Island. 

Two female cadets have accused Capt. John Merrone, a 22-year veteran of the merchant marine, of giving them spiked drinks and then assaulting them in his stateroom aboard the bulker Liberty Glory. They told the Coast Guard that they became incapacitated, at which point the master allegedly raped one and attempted to assault the other.

The U.S. Coast Guard filed an administrative action against Merrone's license in August, accusing him of sexual assault and violating company policies on the use of alcohol. Contrary to earlier reports, a separate criminal investigative referral to the Justice Department remains open, according to Long Island outlet Newsday. Merrone has not been charged with a crime. 

Hearings for Merrone's license revocation proceeding have not yet begun, but he has voluntarily surrendered his Merchant Mariner Credential, the Coast Guard told the outlet. This decision makes him ineligible to sail as a master going forward. 

Merrone had a similar encounter with law enforcement ten years earlier. In 2011, he was charged with false imprisonment, sexual battery and aggravated battery in connection with an alleged assault in the Florida Keys. The woman involved in the case testified that she had been beaten and raped in Merrone's apartment. A jury convicted Merrone of false imprisonment and two counts of simple battery, but an appeals court reversed the conviction in 2013. Merrone retained his license and continued to sail as recently as this year.

Merrone's case is the second high-profile action against a license over sexual assault accusations this year. In May, an administrative law judge suspended the credentials of licensed master Mark Steven Stinziano for 12 months. Stinziano was accused of multiple counts of sexual assault, including abusive, non-consensual touching of a male deck cadet, as well as molestation, crude behavior and intimidation. The judge concluded that Stinziano's actions constituted hazing, not sexual assault or molestation, and gave him a year-long license suspension instead of a revocation.