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Kidney stone surgery delays Lake Norman charter boat case

A judge issued but later rescinded an arrest warrant for a Cornelius man after he failed to show up in Iredell County District Court on a charge of operating a charter boat on Lake Norman without a permit.

The warrant was rescinded hours later, after the judge learned Cliff Champion was in the hospital undergoing emergency surgery to remove a kidney stone. Reached at home Wednesday, Champion said he is recovering well from the surgery.

No one was in court to represent Champion when his name was called twice during the day Tuesday, prompting the judge to issue the order for his arrest. A lawyer showed up on his behalf late in the afternoon.

The Lake Norman Marine Commission filed the complaint against Champion, saying he’d operated his N 2 Deep charter boat without a permit. The boat is berthed at All Seasons Marina off Langtree Road in southern Iredell County.

Champion, who faces up to a $500 fine if convicted, has said he’s only taken friends and family out on the boat.

Champion’s court appearance has been rescheduled to Feb. 3, said his attorney, Mark Childers of Mooresville.

Childers said he couldn’t discuss details of the case but said: “We unequivocally deny the charge and intend to defend (against) it vigorously.”

The case is the first time the commission has filed a complaint against a charter boat operator since it enacted its charter boat ordinance in 2002, Executive Director Ron Shoultz said.

Shoultz said the commission received “hundreds of reports” about Champion taking out groups of people on his boat since he lost his charter permit in June 2012. The commission revoked his permit because Champion didn’t have a place to park his boat at the time, Shoultz said. Champion hasn’t reapplied for a permit.

Shoultz said the commission lacked the proof to file a complaint against Champion until it obtained a copy of a contract he signed with a woman who wanted to host a wedding reception on his boat. The commission also obtained a copy of the $500 check that Champion took as payment, Shoultz said.

The woman who signed the contract with Champion decided against using Champion after learning his boat lacked the required operating permit from the commission, Shoultz said.

Marusak: 704-358-5067; Twitter: @jmarusak
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