Portland – November 14, 2008 – The girl’s voice was so quiet that hardly anyone in the packed courtroom could hear it. But as Charlotte Gillis began to sob, as her chest heaved and her mother wrapped an arm around the 14-year-old’s shoulder, her pain was unmistakable.
“For every choice, there’s a consequence,” she said, looking directly at Robert LaPointe. “Because you did not think your decisions through, it resulted in the death of my dad.”
Terry Raye Trott and his girlfriend, Suzanne Groetzinger, died on Long Lake in Harrison on Aug. 11, 2007, when LaPointe’s boat ran over theirs.
The consequence for LaPointe was delivered on Wednesday, when Justice Robert Crowley ordered him to spend 3 1/2 years in prison, to be followed by two years of probation.
“The defendant’s failure to take responsibility and his lack of remorse is stunning,” Crowley said at the end of a two-hour hearing in Cumberland County Superior Court in Portland.
Afterward, a crowd gathered outside the courthouse to watch as LaPointe was escorted in handcuffs. He is expected to serve his time in the Maine Correctional Center in Windham.
LaPointe, 39, was convicted on Sept. 24 on two counts of aggravated operating under the influence. The jury deadlocked on charges of manslaughter and reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon.
During Wednesday’s hearing, the judge blasted LaPointe for what he called efforts to avoid responsibility. Crowley said that LaPointe had no remorse, and that he lied on the witness stand about how much beer he drank on the day of the crash and other details.
“The defendant lied at trial to avoid the consequences of his criminal actions, and in doing so has worsened the consequences,” Crowley said.
The judge also noted LaPointe’s long history of motor vehicle violations: 23 citations for speeding, five for failure to stop at lights or stop signs, 12 license suspensions and nine additional violations of various types.
“Clearly, the defendant thinks that the rules don’t apply to him,” Crowley said.
The maximum prison term for LaPointe’s convictions was five years. District Attorney Stephanie Anderson asked Crowley to impose a four-year sentence, and LaPointe’s defense attorneys asked for two years or less.
Crowley imposed the maximum sentence, but suspended a portion of it.
LaPointe, who lives with his wife and children in Medway, Mass., owns a home in Bridgton, where his family spends much of each summer. On the night of Aug. 11, 2007, he was driving his 32-foot Sunsation Dominator, named No Patience, on Long Lake.
Around 9 p.m., No Patience ran over a 14-foot boat owned by Trott, destroying the vessel. Trott, 55, of Harrison and Groetzinger, 44, of Berwick were killed.
A blood test showed that LaPointe’s blood alcohol content was 0.11 percent three hours after the crash. Maine’s legal limit to operate a boat or a motor vehicle is 0.08 percent.
The trial began on Sept. 9 in Cumberland County Superior Court.
Prosecutors and several witnesses said that LaPointe drank beer throughout the day of the crash, and that his speed – allegedly at least 45 mph – was reckless for night boating.
Defense lawyers described the crash as a tragic accident. They said that LaPointe was not intoxicated and that Trott’s boat didn’t have any lights showing.
LaPointe testified that he had only three beers that day, and that he was driving about 30 mph at the time of the crash.
His lead defense lawyer, J. Albert Johnson of Boston, said LaPointe is an excellent candidate for rehabilitation.
“Mr. LaPointe demonstrates a … low probability of re-offending,” Johnson said. He also said the traffic history represents a series of civil violations and LaPointe had no prior criminal convictions.
Johnson declined comment after the hearing.
Anderson said LaPointe’s behavior and demeanor before, during and after the trial were shocking.
“He does not take any responsibility for this whatsoever,” Anderson said during Wednesday’s hearing.
In his final statement to both parties, Crowley agreed.
He noted that on the day after the crash, LaPointe seemed more concerned about his boat and about retrieving the keys to his Corvette than he was about the other boaters.
Anderson said that the sentence is fair and that she will not retry LaPointe on the manslaughter charges. She would have been allowed to do so because of the hung jury.
“Yes, it’s the end,” Anderson said outside the courthouse, standing next to Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Norbert. “The jury spoke, and we’re going to go along with it.”
Anderson and Norbert said they were pleased to hear that Crowley agreed with their characterizations of LaPointe.
Meg Harvey was among 11 friends and relatives of the two victims who spoke at the sentencing. Harvey, a friend of Groetzinger’s, chastised LaPointe for the decisions he made that led to the crash.
“(Groetzinger) was minding her own business, watching the stars with her new love, when everything ended for her,” Harvey said during the hearing.
“You simply don’t understand. Your discomfort ends. Ours never, ever will,” she said to LaPointe, who looked down at the defense table. “I hope someday you understand just what you have done.”
Jordan Edwards, who was 15 at the time of his mother’s death, said he was robbed of the opportunity to know her better.
“I never really got to fully develop my relationship with her,” Edwards said. “Only now I realize how much I really lost.”
LaPointe declined to speak at the sentencing hearing, and no one spoke on his behalf, although some people submitted letters to the judge.
[Reprinted from the Portland Press-Herald]