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Keep boater behind bars, urges mom who lost two sons in Lanier crash
Convicted man's lawyer seeks early release date from Hall County jail
Paul J. Bennett2

BUFORD — The mother of two boys killed in a 2012 boat wreck spoke out Friday on the petition of the Forsyth County man convicted in the incident to be released from the Hall County Jail.

Paul J. Bennett’s fishing boat collided with a pontoon boat carrying 13 people on June 18, 2012. Jake, 9 and Griffin Prince, 13, were killed.

The boys’ mother Tara Prince wrote a lengthy post on social media regarding Bennett’s recent petition for release.

“These were happy, healthy, loving children who deserved to live their lives,” Tara Prince wrote on Facebook. “There are two giant gaping holes on this earth and in the lives of countless people that they used to fill.”

Bennett was convicted in 2013 on charges of operating a vessel under the influence of alcohol and reckless operation of a vessel. He was sentenced to 2.5 years in prison.

On Feb. 4, Bennett filed a petition for writ of mandamus for his release, claiming his good behavior allowances have not been counted.

His attorney, Barry Zimmerman, claims Bennett is receiving different treatment than other inmates convicted on similar misdemeanor charges, adding Bennett confirmed an early release date with jail officers.

Couch said in a statement Bennett has been treated fairly at the Hall County Jail.

“Now there will be another hearing to determine when he will be released,” Tara Prince wrote on Facebook. “We are faced with the agonizing choice of trying to decide if it’s worth it to face him again to ask the judge to make him finish his sentence.”

The hearing is scheduled for March 13 in Hall County Superior Court.

Hall County Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Deputy Nicole Bailes said the loss of life in the incident made Bennett ineligible for a good behavior credit.

Bennett was acquitted on eight counts of homicide by vessel.

“The jury had eight chances to find him guilty of having killed those boys, and the jury acquitted him on every case, every count,” Zimmerman said.

A petition on titled “Keep Paul Bennett behind bars!” had nearly 2,500 signatures as of 6 p.m. Friday. It began two days ago.

Zimmerman responded to the family and its supporters on their views of his client.

“All 12 [jurors] said that he didn’t cause the death of their sons,” Zimmerman said. “They don’t believe that. They don’t want to believe that, and I don’t blame them for not wanting to believe that because they lost their two little, precious boys. But that’s what the jury said.”