PORTLAND — Robert LaPointe pleaded not guilty this morning to seven criminal counts in connection with the deaths of two boaters on Long Lake in Harrison last August.

During his appearance in Cumberland County Superior Court, District Attorney Stephanie Anderson informed the court that when LaPointe was taken to a local hospital to have his blood drawn to test for alcohol intoxication immediately after the crash, as required by law, he asked a nurse in the emergency room to substitute her own blood as the blood sample for the intoxication test.

LaPointe’s blood-alcohol content was found to be .11 percent at the time of the crash. Maine’s legal limit for operating a boat or other motor vehicle is .08 percent.

LaPointe, of Bridgton and Medway, Mass., was indicted by a Cumberland County grand jury last month on two counts of manslaughter, four counts of aggravated operating under the influence and one count of reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon. His bail had been set at $100,000 cash, but this morning the court reduced that bail to $50,000 cash over Anderson’s protest.

LaPointe’s attorney, Neale Duffett, argued that bail ought to be reduced because LaPointe had turned himself in, had no prior criminal convictions in Maine and has family connections here. His mother-in-law lives in Maine.

Additionally, Duffett argued that LaPointe had borrowed a lot of money and scratched all of his assets together in order to make the higher bail, which created a desperate financial situation for himself and his family.

As the proceeding got under way, the judge asked, “Are you Robert LaPointe Jr.?” LaPointe shook his head no and said, “Just Robert LaPointe. Not junior.”

Throughout the investigation LaPointe had been identified as Robert LaPointe Jr., and the seven-count indictment included “Jr.” on his name.

There was some conversation about whether to amend the indictment to drop “Jr.,” but LaPointe’s attorney objected and the issue was not resolved.

LaPointe was allegedly at the wheel of his 34-foot dual engine speedboat, a Sunsation Dominator, when it struck a boat carrying Terry Raye Trott, 55, of Naples and Suzanne Groetzinger, 44, of Berwick.

Maine Warden Service investigators determined that LaPointe’s boat was traveling about 45 mph in the dark on on the night of the crash. The collision occurred near the middle of the 11-mile-long lake south of Bear Point on the east shore, and not far from the Naples town line. It took Warden Service divers three days to recover Groetzinger’s and Trott’s bodies.

LaPointe faces four OUI charges — two from the state fish and game department and two from the state motor vehicle department — because laws allow it when a death occurs, Anderson said. The dangerous weapon charge is a result of LaPointe’s allegedly being intoxicated, operating at an excessive speed, failing to maintain adequate visibility and failing to yield to another watercraft as he piloted his boat with dual 435-horsepower engines down the lake.

The two counts of manslaughter are each punishable by up to 20 years in prison. The four counts of aggravated OUI each carry a maximum six-month jail term and a $2,100 fine.


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