Charges dismissed against Marines who stranded more than 100 people on the San Diego Zoo gondola

The Marines avoided felony vandalism convictions that would have resulted in three years in prison.
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Marines san diego zoo
This June 11, 2020 file photo shows a sign near the entrance to the San Diego Zoo in San Diego, California. (AP Photo/Gregory Bull)

Prosecutors have dropped vandalism charges against four Marines, who were arrested in January for allegedly stalling the San Diego Zoo’s gondola, the Marines’ attorney Matthew Lopas said.

“The San Diego County District Attorney dismissed all charges against my clients on Monday November 7, 2022 in the interest of justice,” Lopas told Task & Purpose, adding that the Marines paid $18,260 in restitution.  “I am honored to have represented these young gentlemen and wish them a lengthy and rewarding career in the United States Marine Corps.”

Under a plea agreement struck with prosecutors in May, the four Marines were required to pay the restitution and avoid committing any other offenses for six months in exchange for all charges against them being dismissed, Lopas said on Monday. The Marines have no future court dates scheduled.

Lopas said he was unable to comment on whether his clients have been disciplined by the Marine Corps because he represented them in the civilian court system.

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On Jan. 29, more than 100 people became stuck on the zoo’s Skyfari Aerial Tram after the Marines allegedly caused the system to shut down by rocking back and forth. It took San Diego firefighters and zoo employees more than two hours to rescue all the people from their gondolas. None of the rescued passengers required medical attention.

“The restitution ordered by the court reimburses the Zoo for losses incurred as a result of the damage caused, covering repairs and inspection costs and related expenses,” San Diego Zoo spokeswoman Darla Davis told Task & Purpose on Monday.

KNSD-TV was first to report that charges against the four Marines had been dismissed.

Marine Corps officials have previously identified the four Marines who were arrested and initially charged with vandalism as Lance Cpl. Marquette Alexander Williams, Lance Cpl. Brayden Stone Posey, Cpl. Brandon Gregory Cook, and Sgt. Jacob Dean Bauer.

All four Marines were assigned to Marine Fighter Attack Squadron 225 based out of Marine Corps Air Station Yuma in Arizona, and they were conducting training at Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, California, at the time.

Following a command investigation, the Marines’ leadership “addressed the matter appropriately,” said 3rd Marine Aircraft Wing spokesman Maj. Mason Engelhart, who declined to elaborate further.

“The command took appropriate administrative action,” said Engelhart, adding that the four Marines have paid the full restitution to the San Diego Zoo.

When they appeared in court for their arraignment in February, Deputy District Attorney Abrey Zora told KFMB-TV that each Marine could face up to three years if convicted of felony vandalism.

“We take every case seriously, and especially in this case,” Zora told the television station. “A lot of people were put in danger, but regardless of them being Marines or not, every case is evaluated the same.”

A spokesperson for the San Diego District Attorney’s Office did not return emails and phone calls from Task & Purpose asking for comment on Monday.

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