Criminal Justice

Prosecutors drop case against BigLaw partner accused of leaving scene of boat crash

  • Print.


Image from

Prosecutors in Texas have dropped the case against Vinson & Elkins partner Douglas E. McWilliams, who was accused of disappearing after crashing a boat that carried five of his partners.

Prosecutors in Travis County dropped the case Tuesday, report the Austin American-Statesman and the Wall Street Journal.

The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department accused McWilliams of leaving the crash scene and sought an arrest warrant, but prosecutors never presented the case to a grand jury, according to the Austin American-Statesman. A judge who signed a felony arrest warrant recalled it a day later after McWilliams’ lawyer asked for time to persuade prosecutors that charges aren’t warranted.

McWilliams had crashed his boat in the darkness on Lake Travis in May 2018. A group of lawyers had been visiting McWilliams’ home on the eve of a firm retreat, and he offered to take five partners to their hotel after a shuttle bus that was supposed to take them there had broken down.

Douglas McWilliamsDouglas E. McWilliams is a Houston partner in the Vinson & Elkins law firm.

Two passengers suffered fractured bones from the crash. McWilliams had left to get help when poor reception prevented a 911 call, but he disappeared for about five hours. Rescuers mounted a search for McWilliams.

McWilliams has said he must have passed out from the stress and the pain from a separated shoulder he endured in the crash. Seventeen of McWilliams’ colleagues said in affidavits that he was not drunk that evening.

McWilliams’ lawyer, Brian Roark, said in a statement that dismissal paperwork signed by a judge “lists the reason as ‘in the interests of justice,’ thereby clearing Mr. Williams of the false allegation” made by a parks and wildlife warden.

McWilliams is the head of the equity capital markets group at Vinson & Elkins. A spokesperson for Vinson & Elkins told the Wall Street Journal that the firm was pleased by the dismissal, and that “this was an unfortunate accident for everyone involved.”

Give us feedback, share a story tip or update, or report an error.