Nearly a year after a Camden woman was struck and killed by a motorboat while swimming in Damariscotta Lake, the operator of the boat has entered into an agreement to resolve the case.
Jonathan D. Roberts, 44, of Waban, Massachusetts, will be fined $400 and be required to perform 100 hours of community service work if he follows the terms of the agreement that was approved Monday at the Lincoln County courthouse.
He originally had been charged with manslaughter, reckless operation of a watercraft and operating a watercraft at an imprudent speed in connection with the Aug. 2, 2018, death of 32-year-old Kristen McKellar.
According to a release issued Monday by Lincoln County District Attorney Natasha Irving, the state has dismissed the manslaughter and imprudent speed charges as part of the deal between the district attorney’s office and Roberts’ defense attorney, Walter McKee of Augusta. Instead, Roberts has pleaded guilty to reckless operation of a watercraft and is subject to a three-year deferred disposition agreement.
If he successfully performs his community service and avoids any violation of federal, state or local criminal laws, he will admit to a substitute civil violation of operating a watercraft at greater than headway speed in a water safety zone, Irving wrote in the release. If Roberts fails to follow the terms of the agreement, he will be convicted of the criminal charge of reckless operation of a watercraft and be sentenced to up to 364 days in jail and a $2,000 fine.
“The agreement takes into account Mr. Roberts’ responsibility for this tragedy, but also the state’s conclusion that the likelihood of obtaining a conviction at trial is extremely low,” Irving wrote. “Neither the District Attorney’s office nor the McKellar family are satisfied with the outcome, but the state is convinced this result is the best that could be obtained based on the facts and the existing laws.”
Irving said that she is working with the Maine Warden Service and legislators to propose new laws that will promote safer boating, “avoid another tragedy on Maine’s waters and hold those accountable whose actions make our boaters unsafe.”
McKellar’s family members were sharply critical of the agreement, saying that it does not feel like justice has been done for her or for other people who swim in Maine waters.
“When I learned that the state would settle for 100 hours of community service and an admission to operating above headway speed in a water safety zone, it felt like ‘The Twilight Zone.’ It still does,” Alison McKellar, Kristen McKellar’s sister, wrote in a statement she shared at court Monday. “This is something I cannot begin to fathom. One hundred hours of community service is what Kristen would do in a month. Sharing this news with my children has been the most difficult thing since her death.”