SANTA ROSA (CBS SF) — A Southern California man pleaded not guilty Thursday afternoon to misdemeanor charges of boating under the influence in July when a Santa Rosa man died while wakeboarding on Lake Sonoma.

The boat operator, Andrew Scheff, 30, of the Los Angeles area, is not alleged to have caused the death of 32-year-old Brian Allan Edwards of Santa Rosa on July 24, Deputy District Attorney Robert Maddock said.

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“There is insufficient evidence that the boating under the influence was the proximate cause of the death, and we have to prove that beyond a reasonable doubt,” Maddock said after Scheff’s brief arraignment.

Maddock said any sporting activity, particularly wakeboarding, can be inherently dangerous.

Scheff is charged under the state’s Harbors and Navigation Code with misdemeanor boating under the influence and boating under the influence with a blood-alcohol level greater than 0.08 percent, Maddock said. Each count has a maximum sentence of one year in county jail.

Edwards was wakeboarding while Scheff operated the boat at about 20 mph in the Dry Creek area of the lake in northern Sonoma County, according to the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office.

Edwards suffered a cut on his head when he hit the wakeboard but was able to swim back to the boat, sheriff’s Sgt. Cecile Focha said in July.

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Edwards complained of back pain, and his injuries worsened as the boat headed to a private marina where boaters called 911, Focha said.

Scheff appeared under the influence of alcohol when the sheriff’s office’s marine unit responded around 8 p.m., and his blood-alcohol level was twice the legal limit to operate a boat safely, Focha said.

Scheff was not charged until today. He made a previous appearance in court July 29 when Maddock informed the court that Edwards had died.  Maddock asked for more time to investigate the incident before filing charges.

Scheff’s attorney Jeffrey Vallens said in July that the death was a tragedy and that Scheff and Edwards were lifelong friends.


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