Paul Bennett Sentenced in Deaths of Prince Boys

Paul J. Bennett
Paul J. Bennett

In one sense, the only fair judgment in the case of the deaths of two young boys who were out for an innocent boat ride on Lake Lanier with their family would be to return to the evening of June 18, 2012 and undo all the damage done when Paul Bennett’s boat careened across the Prince family’s pontoon boat, resulting in death and injuries.

The trial of Mr. Bennett in Hall County Superior Court began on Monday, November 4, 2013, when he faced charges of eight counts of homicide by vessel, two counts of boating under the influence (BUI), two counts of reckless operation of a vessel and two counts of failure to render aid following the collision.

The trial of Mr. Bennett concluded on Thursday, November 14th with a jury’s verdict that surprised many who have followed the case for almost a year and a half.

Not Guilty of Eight Counts of Homicide by Vessel

Mr. Bennett’s boat tragically struck a pontoon boat carrying nine adults and four children, tossing several people into the dark water and killing Jake Prince, 9, and Griffin Prince, 13, whose body was only found after nine days of intensive searches by a combined force of many local agencies.

Although the jury chose to find Mr. Bennett Not Guilty of the homicide by vessel counts, Mr. Bennett was found Guilty of boating under the influence, two counts of reckless operation of a vessel and one count of failure to render aid in the deadly crash.

Hall County Superior Court Judge Kathlene Gosselin sentenced Mr. Bennett to 30 months in prison, followed by 18-months on probation and 400-hours of community service.  Mr. Bennett lost his boating privileges in Georgia and must also undergo drug and alcohol evaluations, according to the judge’s ruling.

Barry Zimmerman, Mr. Bennett’s attorney, was quoted by The Gainesville Times as saying he doubted Mr. Bennett would serve the entire 30-month prison sentence, due to what is commonly called time off for good behavior.

During the trial District Attorney for Hall County and Dawson County Lee Darragh was quoted by WSB-TV as saying, “One should not be operating a boat in the condition he was in.  Because of the condition he was in, he caused the deaths of these two young boys through this collision.”  And, “He does express some sorrow for the loss of children.  A fact that he knew before he left that scene.  He knew that because the mother of Jake and Griffin called out to him, ‘you killed my babies.’  I submit to you, that is why he left the scene.  This is no legal accident.  This is a drunken boating collision caused by Paul Bennett and he should be held responsible.”

Following the verdict, District Attorney Darragh shared this statement with

 “While we the prosecution were disappointed in the limited extent of the jury’s verdict, we are grateful for Judge Gosselin’s significant sentence on the charges on which she had the opportunity to sentence.

Paul Bennett stands now as a convicted criminal with important conditions of the probation portion of the sentence after his jail sentence is over.

Hopefully, boaters on Lake Lanier will take to heart the necessity of being sober as they enjoy their recreation on the Lake for the safety of all who boat.

My thoughts and prayers are with the Prince family as [they] continue in their grief for the loss of their beloved boys Jake and Griffin.”


There is a difference, I believe, between “not guilty” and “innocent.”  Having been a juror in Hall County on several occasions, I understand the limited options jurors have under our judicial system.  After being reduced to eleven members, following one juror’s misconduct, the jury did not find Mr. Bennett guilty of homicide by vessel.

In my opinion, that does not mean he is innocent in the deaths of two beloved children, as proven by his conviction on the charges of BUI, reckless operation of a vessel and failure to render aid in the fatal wreck.

Although we respect the decision of the court, our hearts go out to the families of Jake & Griffin Prince.  May God comfort them and graciously heal their broken hearts.


About Author

Robert J. Sutherland is a travel writer enjoying life in Gainesville, GA.
Robert has two adult daughters, seven practically perfect grandchildren and a zippy Kawasaki. Contact Robert at [email protected].

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(3) Comments

  1. Citizen for the Truth

    This accident was indeed tragic for the Prince family, but also tragic for Mr. Bennett’s family and friends. All reporters in a concerted effort to support the Prince family have failed to take note that the accident itself was caused by Mr. Prince’s failure to yield to Mr. Bennett’s boat which had the right of way.

    1. Robert Sutherland


      Reporters did not find Mr. Bennett guilty of causing the deaths of the two innocent Prince children. That was done in a court of law by a jury.

      In this “reporter’s” opinion, Mr. Bennett belongs behind bars for many more years than he received as a sentence for his behavior that killed two beloved children.

      Robert Sutherland

  2. jimmie howard

    If you plan to put a boat on Lake Lanier, or any other lake for that matter, It is your responsibility to educate yourself for the privilege to do so. Don’t just pass the boating and safety Certification Exam, master it! Every captain of a vessel, must know the navigational rules, and have the sobriety to execute them instantaneously. Boating is not a frivolous pastime. There is no way you can learn what you need to know by taking a fifteen minute “crash course” at a boat rental establishment. If you don’t know the rules for safe boating, or if you are prone to the use of alcohol while on the water, you are inviting personal disaster, Don’t let unsafe boating practices lead you to your day in court.

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