Mass. boater gets 3½ years in fatal crash

Posted Nov. 12, 2008, at 9:44 p.m.
Last modified March 20, 2011, at 6:16 a.m.

Mass. boater gets 3½years in fatal crash

Operator of ‘No Patience’ cited for ‘reckless’ behavior

By Clarke Canfield

PORTLAND, Maine — A Massachusetts boater who was drunk when he drove his high-speed powerboat over a small boat in a violent collision that killed two people on a western Maine lake is going to prison for 3½ years.

Robert LaPointe of Medway, Mass., was led away in hand-cuffs after his sentencing Wednesday on two counts of aggravated operating under the influence stemming from the crash on Long Lake in Harrison. At LaPointe’s trial in September, a jury deadlocked on the more serious charges of manslaughter.

Prosecutors told jurors that LaPointe had been drinking all day and was operating his 32-foot boat, “No Patience,” in a reckless manner when it ran over a smaller boat and its two occupants.

At his sentencing in Cumber-land County Superior Court, Justice Robert Crowley said LaPointe lied about his drink-ing and the speed of his boat to try to deflect responsibility.

“The defendant’s failure to take responsibility and his lack of remorse are stunning,” Crowley said.

Crowley imposed the maxi-mum sentence of five years in prison but suspended a portion of the sentence. LaPointe also was ordered to serve two years of probation upon his release.

Cumberland County District Attorney Stephanie Anderson said she would not retry LaPointe on the manslaughter charges.

The collision on the moon-less night of Aug. 11, 2007, killed Terry Raye Trott, 55, of Harrison, and Suzanne Groetzinger, 44, of Berwick.

LaPointe and his passenger survived being thrown from their boat, which sped ashore before coming to rest more than 100 feet in the woods. A blood sample taken three hours after the crash indicated his blood-alcohol content was 0.11 per-cent, higher than the limit of 0.08 percent for operating a boat in Maine.

Anderson asked that LaPointe be sent to prison for four years. LaPointe, she said, has a history of “thrill-seeking and reckless” behavior as evi-denced by his 23 speeding con-victions, five convictions for failure to stop at stop signs or traffic signals and 12 license suspensions.

She called LaPointe a “fre-quent and avid consumer of alcohol” and said his biggest concern after the crash was the condition of his boat.

“Four years. I mean it’s like nothing against the lives of these two people,” she told Crowley.

LaPointe’s attorney, J. Al-bert Johnson, urged Crowley to show mercy and compassion. He said there’s a low probabil-ity of LaPointe re-offending and a high probability of him being reformed.

Family members and friends of the victims emotionally told Crowley about how the deaths had affected them. Meg Harvey, a friend of Groetzinger, turned toward LaPointe and said she hoped for a long sentence.

“I hope someday you under-stand just what you have done,” Harvey said.

LaPointe did not speak and showed no emotion when the sentence was announced. But he broke down sobbing when he was put into handcuffs in the courtroom to be taken to prison.

During LaPointe’s two-week trial, jurors had to sift through conflicting testimony on how fast LaPointe was driving his boat, how much beer he had consumed and whether the lights on Trott’s boat were working.

Prosecutors told jurors that LaPointe had been drinking all day before he drove his boat, equipped with twin 435-horsepower engines, into Trott’s smaller boat at a speed of 45 mph or faster.

LaPointe testified that he drank only three beers on the day of the accident and was operating his boat prudently. He maintained that he didn’t see the smaller boat because its lights weren’t operating.

The crash sparked debate on boating safety and whether it’s appropriate to have a boat ca-pable of going 80 mph on a busy lake such as Long Lake, which is 11 miles long but barely a mile wide in places.

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