Courtesy the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office:  Leslie Gardner, 63, of Gillette, Wyoming.
Courtesy the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office: Leslie Gardner, 63, of Gillette, Wyoming.

REDWOOD CITY -- A Wyoming man was sentenced to time already served Wednesday for stealing a luxury yacht and taking it on a strange ride that ended with the vessel crashing aground at a Pacifica beach, a prosecutor said.

Leslie Alan Gardner, who claimed the 82-foot boat was his, was to leave San Mateo County jail Wednesday but will still have to pay $1.38 million in restitution for costs stemming from the Darling's theft, District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe said.

The March 4 crash into Linda Mar beach damaged the $2.7 million boat so significantly it had to be sent to England, where it was originally built, for repairs.

The sentence brings to a close the odd case that began with what appeared to simply be a boat stranded in the sand. Authorities soon learned the yacht was stolen from a Sausalito harbor, sailed under the Golden Gate Bridge and veered onto the beach.

When police finally coaxed 62-year-old Gardner, of Gillette, and an Aptos couple from the beached yacht, the case got stranger. The couple said they met Gardner in a bar several days earlier and that he told them the boat was his.

The trio ended up aboard the boat with beer and pizza for a party, but somehow the boat ran aground. Its owner realized the Darling was missing when he saw it floundering in the waves on the morning TV news.


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Prosecutors couldn't prove the couple knew the boat was stolen, and they were released from jail without charges.

Gardner's attorney previously said his client was delusional and believed he'd been left the boat by a relative. It was a manifestation of mental problems that could be traced back to his service with the Marines in Vietnam in 1968-70, Gardner's attorney John May previously said.

In addition to being ordered to pay the restitution, Gardner must also complete five years of probation, Wagstaffe said.

Contact Joshua Melvin at 650-348-4335. Follow him at Twitter.com/melvinreport.