SAN FRANCISCO — The helmsman of a cargo ship that set off an environmental disaster in the San Francisco Bay has been sentenced to 10 months in prison.

U.S District Court Judge Susan Illston sentenced John Cota on Friday for two misdemeanor environmental crimes of illegally discharging oil in the bay and killing thousands of birds. He pleaded guilty to the charges in March.

Cota was the pilot of the 901-foot Cosco Busan when it slammed into the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge on the foggy morning of Nov. 7, 2007.

Cota’s lawyer argued that a poorly trained Chinese crew, language barriers and others factors beyond his control contributed the accident.

Prosecutors countered that Cota’s actions at the helm were negligent.

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