A homeless man from Newport was arrested last week after he allegedly stole a boat from the South Beach Marina, began driving it recklessly and eventually crashed it into some rocks before later claiming he purchased the boat years ago despite there being no records and contrary claims by the vessel’s registered owner.

Robert Andrew Smotherman, 35, was arrested June 15 and charged with first-degree theft, first-degree criminal mischief, unlawful entry and use of a motor vehicle and giving false information. He received conditional release June 17 with the stipulation he not contact the boat’s owner or “be south of the Yaquina Bay River.” An early resolution conference for the case is set for July 11.

According to an affidavit of probable cause filed June 16, police officers were dispatched to the South Beach Marina on June 15 on reports from U.S. Coast Guard personnel that a male suspect was recklessly driving a boat they believed was stolen.

Newport police officers arrived at the docks to find Coast Guard officials with a man, later identified as Smotherman. When questioned by police, Smotherman reportedly gave a fake name and said he was the owner of the boat, a Boston Whaler valued at $60,000, and that he purchased it two and a half years ago for $66,000, according to the affidavit.

Officers worked with the Coast Guard to find the vessel’s registered owner and found it was not registered to Smotherman or the fake identity he gave to police. Police contacted the real owner, who said he owned the boat for the last 12 years and was able to give a precise description of it. Officers noted a “for sale” sign inside the boat also had the registered owner’s name and number on it. The owner said he had never met Smotherman, did not sell him the boat and would like to press charges after officers told him Smotherman crashed the vessel into some rocks, the affidavit states.

After the phone call, Smotherman reportedly kept insisting the boat belonged to him and if it was registered to someone else, it must have been stolen before he purchased it. Officers tried to explain to Smotherman that the boat’s tags were updated recently and its most recent docking slip was paid for by the registered owner, making Smotherman’s story impossible, according to the affidavit.

Smotherman was arrested on the aforementioned charges and reportedly gave officers the false name before he was later identified. When an officer realized this and asked Smotherman for his real name, he reportedly told them he was working for the U.S. Marshalls as a confidential informant.

A pre-trial release agreement for Smotherman, which refers to him using female terms, states he has one prior Oregon arrest and 12 prior Idaho arrests. The document also states he is currently homeless and pre-trial services could arrange for him to be placed in a hotel room until trial.

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