Criminal Justice

Attorney and law student indicted in boating accident that cost passenger an arm

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A Massachusetts lawyer who specializes in defense of operating-under-the-influence cases was indicted Wednesday, along with a former law student intern, in a Boston Harbor boating accident in which alcohol allegedly played a role.

However, the charges against attorney Benjamin Urbelis, 33, were reduced after it became clear that he apparently was not on his boat, the Naut Guilty, when its propeller sliced off a 19-year-old passenger’s arm above the elbow, according to and the Boston Herald.

Urbelis is now charged with operating a boat while under the influence and providing alcohol to minors.

His former intern last summer, New England Law School student Alexander Williams, 24, is charged with negligent operation of a boat, providing alcohol to minors and evidence-tampering. Prior news reports said he was accused of deleting texts from his cellphone before providing it to police.

Authorities said 13 people were in and around the boat on May 30 when the injured woman, Nicole Berthiaume, jumped into the water to get a seat cushion that had blown away. Her arm was severed by the propeller as she attempted to climb back aboard.

Attorney Joe Serpa represents Williams. He told a Boston Globe reporter last week that Williams started the boat in an attempt to rescue Berthiaume, who was “in a panic.”

“The only qualified operator of that boat jumped off,” said Serpa, meaning Urbelis. “Anything that happened after that was a tragic accident.”

Meanwhile, Urbelis has filed an apparent declaratory judgment civil action in federal court, seeking to limit his liability concerning the accident, another Boston Globe story reported last month.

His lawyer, Daniel O’Malley, told the newspaper Urbelis was swimming and hence not aboard the anchored boat when someone else turned its engine on.

Related coverage: “Defense lawyer in OUI cases is himself charged after woman loses arm in boat accident”

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