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No jail time for law student who started up the boat that sliced off woman's arm in Boston Harbor

Alexander Williams, 26, will have to perform 200 hours of community service at a rehabilitation center as part of his sentence for his role in the way a passenger on his party boat lost her right arm in 2015, the Suffolk County District Attorney's office reports.

Williams admitted to negligent operation of a boat, furnishing alcohol to minors, and tampering with evidence. Rather than finding him guilty, however, Suffolk Superior Court Linda Giles continued his case without a finding for two years, which means the charges will go away if he stays out of trouble for that time.

In addition to community service, Williams will have to pay $5,000 in restitution to the victim and complete a certified drug and alcohol awareness program.

Williams was among the partiers on the Naut Guilty, owned by lawyer Benjamin Urbellis, with whom Williams had done a legal fellowship the year before.

According to the DA's office:

Had the case proceeded to trial, Assistant District Attorney Gretchen Sherwood of the DA’s Major Felony Bureau would have introduced evidence and testimony to prove Williams was among 13 people aboard the 30-foot Chaparral vessel “Naut Guilty” on May 30, 2015. In preparation of the outing, Williams obtained what he described as “enough liquor to kill a horse” for the boats’ passengers, which included six young women Williams knew to be under age 21, prosecutors said. Among the passengers was the then-19-year-old victim.

During the boating trip, the victim and others jumped into the water after the boat was anchored in the area of Spectacle Island. Williams, who did not have knowledge of how to operate the boat, started the vessel's engine and failed to place it in neutral as the victim swam back to the boat and attempted to climb aboard. She was pulled underwater by the propeller, the evidence would have shown. As a result, the victim’s right arm was severed and she suffered severe lacerations to her left arm, legs, abdomen, and back.

Boston Police, Boston Emergency Medical Services, Boston Fire Department, State Police, Environmental Police, and the U.S. Coast Guard responded to a distress call from the boat at approximately 7:45 p.m. and the victim was rushed to an area hospital for emergency surgery.

During the course of their investigation into the incident, Boston Police obtained a warrant to search Williams’ phone and arrived at Williams’ Longfellow Place residence on the morning of June 18, 2015. However, when officers received Williams’ phone, its contents had been erased, prosecutors said.

In her victim statement, Nicole Berthiaume said:

You will rarely hear me complain about the incident, and you will almost never hear me complain about my disability, but that does not mean that it doesn’t kill me every time I look in a mirror, drop something, or accept help from someone.

I am a strong independent person; that’s something that has not and will never change. I don’t want help from other people, I don’t want people to think I am incapable of anything. I would rather struggle putting on a coffee coozie at Starbucks for 10 minutes and spill it everywhere when I open my car door than have anyone over me help. But to the world I am a damaged disabled person, so most times I will sacrifice my own pride and kindly accept the unwanted help, even though that itself is the most debilitating part.

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You can change someone's life forever, giving them a disability for which they can never recover, and yet face no life long consequences. Our court system is too harsh on people who do no lasting harm and exceedingly lenient on those who do permanent damage.

A fitting punishment would be 1,000 hours of community service, per year, for the remainder of his life in addition to a felony conviction.

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Agreed. Our legal system seems to be very mixed up. This guy is getting off so lightly, and why? Who knows, but being young and well-to-do can't be hurting him.

Edit: And the lawyer who owned the boat was in his 30s, was partying with teenagers, and specialized in representing drunk drivers?? With a boat named "Naut Guilty". Wow...

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Rather than finding him guilty, however, Suffolk Superior Court Linda Giles continued his case without a finding for two years(emphasis added), which means the charges will go away if he stays out of trouble for that time.

As the Mythbusters say "Well, THERE'S your problem."

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"This guy is getting off so lightly, and why? Who knows"

The victim, in her victim impact statement asked for the community service and rehab.

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Yes, which is very kind of her. However, I don't think the sentence should be dictated by the victim. In the end it's up to the judge to decide what his actions warrant, and I'd say he got off easy.

(Though I do think the lawyer should bear the brunt of the punishment.)

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It sucks, but sht happens.

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At the least I think upping the amount of community service as well as the amount to be awarded to the victim. 200 hours and $5,000 is so little. He can be totally paid off and clear in less than a year.

She will live with his mistake for the rest of her life.

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It sucks, but sht happens.

And goes on happening for the rest of your life, if you lost an arm because of someone else's stupidity. I think a life sentence of helping that person seems appropriate.

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At least, if one is a responsible grown up and thinks things through before giving out a fuckton of booze to underage drinkers and partying with a boat.

This isn't an accident. This is an incident which could have been foreseen to a certain extent and prevented by responsible behavior.

There were no falling meteors or lightning strikes involved - just pure negligence and stupidity. That should require more support of the victim at the very least.

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Or, drop the community service, forget the felony conviction, and make the restitution $5,000 per month for the remainder of his life.

That would make more sense.

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And what purpose would that serve? Instead of ruining one life, you ruin two, and the victim is no better off. Punishments are designed to deter future offenses, not to exact revenge (as the victim in this case seems to appreciate). Since it seems that the defendant in this case had no malicious intent, it's not at all clear what would be achieved with a harsher sentence (other than making the rest of us feel better).

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Well, the lifetime of community service would hopefully help people for the rest of his life just as he hurt someone for the rest of their life. It will also be a lifelong reminder to him and to others that if you do something predictably stupid, you will forever pay a price.

A lifetime of community service is hardly "ruining" his life, rather it's restitution for the pain he caused another.

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While it's unlikely he intended to bring the girl and the other underage females onto the boat in order to chop arms off, he intended to get them drunk. If I read the article correctly, one of the deleted text messages includes his boast to be bringing enough alcohol to kill a horse for the underage women. What exactly was his intent?
This guy got off with a slap on the wrist. I doubt this will stop him from this type of behavior in the future.

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Punishments are designed to deter future offenses, not to exact revenge (as the victim in this case seems to appreciate).

This isn't true; judicial punishments have several functions. Deterrance; restitution; and believe it or not, revenge is a valid function, to a degree. If society feels that a criminal is not being adequately punished, that leads to a breakdown. The judicial system works insofar as people feel that justice is being done.

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I have to disagree. This was an unfortunate accident. The goal of the justice system should not be some kind of twisted "eye for an eye" punishment. This is one of the things that separates us from the savages that call for Sharia law. The goal should be to make sure that the individual that committed the crime does not re-offend, and to provide a deterrent for others not to commit the same crime. This sentence accomplishes both in my opinion. This whole case and how big it was in the media served as a great PSA for boating safety.

Also, I believe that the victim shares some responsibility to what happened to her. She chose to drink around a heavy dangerous machine whose operation she did not fully understand.

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She was underage. Little if no experience with alcohol.
He was an adult. He served her alcohol. He and the boat owner are the only ones responsible here.

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Someone always manages to find a way to blame the victim. Sure, she could've made choices that would have resulted in no accident... the same could be said of any victim ever. The blame still falls with the perpetrator(s).

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There was not really a "perpetrator" here, nor is the "victim" really a traditional victim. It was people making stupid decisions that had unforeseen (by them) horrific consequences. Both the guy charged and the girl made such stupid decisions on this day. The horrific results were only a result of the collaboration of both William's and the girl's stupidity. If only either one of them was not acting stupid that day, this accident would not have happened. Thus I feel she shares some blame.

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She is an adult according to the law in every way except our twisted and draconian liquor laws. Perhaps if our drinking laws were in line with most other civilized nations she would have had the experience to act like an adult around liquor when she is in adult situations such as this. Unless one is a child, and our society does not consider 19 year olds to be so, everyone is responsible for their own actions. While serving a minor alcohol is a crime, consuming alcohol while a minor is a crime as well.

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Nothing in the article actually indicates that she was intoxicated. But it's clear it was Williams intention to get her drunk, that he had no idea how to operate a boat but decided to operate it anyway while people were swimming nearby and that he deleted texts to destroy evidence.
Even if she was drunk, it would still be his fault because he provided the alcohol and she was underage and too young to know her limit.

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she will sue rich boat guy.

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The most she can get is the value of the boat due to maritime law, I believe. Probably not even enough to cover her medical bills.

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I didn't know that.

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I think that limit is unlikely to be applied in a recreational setting, at least that's what my insurer led me to believe. (In other words boat owners should not reduce their coverage under this assumption). I think the key in a civil suit could be whether the victim knew what risks were in store for her that night and whether the owners and operators were negligent, wouldn't it?

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Source? If this is true, I've been paying for way more liability insurance on my boat than I should be... I'm nearly certain it's false.

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I could be wrong, but I remember that coming out when this case initially happened and discussing this with a few of my attorney coworkers. Too lazy to look this up though, and none of us work in this field of law, so take my comment with a grain of salt.

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Google something like: maritime law limits liability to value of boat. The antiquated law tries to establish that if you own a container vessel on the high seas with little control over it and cargo or another ship are inadvertently damaged you stand to lose your ship and no more. Not likely to be applied to a recreational boating accident according to the law firms that write about it on their public sites but you never know until someone tries it in front of a judge.

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why it must be Cherith Cutestory, Esq.

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$5,000 restitution

Did you miss a couple of zeros in transcribing this?

Do you think $5,000 was already spent within the first 45 seconds in the Emergency Room?

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Had he taken the class where they teach you that tampering with evidence is wrong?

Presumably he was sober when he deleted his emails, so he can't use diminished capacity as a defense for that. But thanks to this shameful sentence, it sounds like there will be no ramifications in terms of his future career as a lawyer.

I hope I'm wrong.

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Oh I am pretty sure his law career is done for now. Even if he wasn't kicked out of law school for this, I assume he would be unable to pass the character requirements to be admitted to the bar. My guess is he would have to wait at least a decade (and behave) before he could be considered for the bar.

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i didn't know that either.

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"However, when officers received Williams’ phone, its contents had been erased, prosecutors said."

How the [email protected] is he not serving time for evidence tampering?

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There's no proof there was evidence on the phone?

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Is that really tampering with evidence?

Isn't it common for people to periodically clear text messages to save storage space? They obtained his phone several weeks after the incident.

I'm genuinely curious here, because if that is true, then anyone ever deleting anything could be construed as tampering with evidence, if the information deleted turns out later on to be relevant to a criminal investigation.

(arguably in hindsight he should have anticipated messages on his phone being considered evidence, but I'm more curious about the implications that establishing this as precedent has in other scenarios)

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It is so strange to me how this state arbitrarily legislates stuff like cosmetic firearm features that do nothing to affect the deadliness of a weapon, or banning pitchers of beer in some places. Meanwhile, any yahoo with enough money can operate a 30' boat with ZERO training or prior experience on the water. Idiots who don't know port from starboard, or how to tie off a cleat. Mix in alcohol (which is underenforced) and it's a recipe for disaster. Boating safety courses should be mandatory.

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