Maryland Resident Indicted On Federal Charges For Cruise Ship Sexual Assault

In recent news, it is reported a 21-year-old resident of Abingdon, Maryland, Jalen Thomas Kelley, has been indicted on federal charges, including aggravated sexual abuse, sexual abuse, and assault within the territorial jurisdiction.

More About The Case

The alleged incident occurred aboard the Carnival Legend cruise ship between January 1, 2023, and January 2, 2023, while the vessel was en route from and returning to Baltimore, Maryland. Kelley's apprehension occurred on September 20, 2023, by the FBI Charlotte Field Office in Wingate, North Carolina.

If convicted, Kelley could potentially face a life sentence; however, it's important to note that actual sentences for federal crimes often fall below the maximum penalties. The final determination of the sentence will rest with a federal district court judge, who will consider various factors, including the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory considerations.

The investigation into this matter is ongoing, and anyone with information related to the case is strongly urged to contact the FBI Baltimore at 410-265-8080.

Keith Brais: “We Have To Ask: Why Aren’t Crimes On Cruise Ships Being Reported?”

Keith S. Brais, a Board Certified Admiralty and Maritime with the Florida bar since 1996 anda well-known attorney at the Brais Law Firm, has been a vocal proponent of transparency in cruise ship safety reporting. Possessing a deep knowledge of maritime law, Mr. Brais has offered an insightful commentary on the shortcomings of reporting sexual assaults and other crimes on cruise ships. His analysis highlights the pressing necessity for reform within the cruise industry to provide sufficient minimal warnings to the cruising public regarding sexual assaults and crimes aboard cruise ships and improve guarantee the safety and welfare of passengers and crew members.  In general, Cruise Lines limit their warnings to “crime” aboard the vessel, but very often without any reference to a cruise passenger, adult or minor, being the victim of a sexual assault, rape or molestations, in the case of a minor.  

Mr. Brais has raised concerns about the lack of transparency and prosecution surrounding crimes on cruise ships: “These crimes (sexual assaults) on cruise ships are far more often not prosecuted, although there does exist special jurisdiction to do so by our Justice Department. The date of the incident is somewhat amazing because crimes on cruise ships are required to be reported to the general public and published by the DOT pursuant to 46 U.S. Code § 3507 - Passenger Vessel Security and Safety Requirements. Now, here is the disturbing part: the DOT has since at least January of 2010 reported on a quarterly basis the number of crimes aboard all major Cruise Lines.   However, since the beginning of 2023, the DOT has STOPPED reporting on crimes aboard cruise ships, certainly sexual assaults on cruise ships for 2023. DOT online reporting suddenly stopped reporting through 2022 but has published nothing for first and second each quarters of 2023. We have to ask, why?” 

The Cruise Ship Industry Needs Increased Transparency And Accountability

Before the enactment of the Cruise Vessel Security and Safety Act (CVSSA), cruise lines were not required to report crimes against U.S. citizens that occurred on their ships. Since 2010, the cruise crime database has been accessible to the public, revealing the extent of crime on cruise ships.

Some main points to consider include the following:

  • Sexual assaults are the most frequently reported crime, with alarming statistics emerging from these reports.
  • Of great concern is the per capita sexual assault rate on Carnival cruise ships, which exceeded that of many states. This is due to the absence of independent law enforcement on cruise ships and excessive alcohol consumption.
  • While the CVSSA primarily addresses crimes involving U.S. nationals, foreign victims are left with little recourse. Despite the noble goals of the CVSSA, cruise ship safety reporting remains inadequate and obscured by a lack of transparency.
  • Recent developments, including the DOT's failure to report crimes in 2023, underscore the urgent need for reform to ensure the safety of all passengers and crew members.

At Brais Law Firm, we are committed to advocating for the rights of those affected by crimes on cruise ships and holding responsible parties accountable. With the cooperation of the cruise industry, law enforcement agencies, and regulatory bodies, we can ensure that those who sail the high seas do so with increased confidence in their safety and security. Contact us today to learn more.


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