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Victims' kin seek to ban accused from selling assets

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Associated Press / August 20, 2008
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PORTLAND, Maine - The assets of a Massachusetts man who faces a criminal trial and civil lawsuits arising from a 2007 boat crash on a Maine lake that killed two people are being closely watched by the victims' families.

Robert LaPointe of Medway, is scheduled to stand trial Sept. 8 in Portland on two counts of manslaughter.

Lawyers for relatives of crash victims Suzanne Groetzinger of Berwick and Terry Raye Trott of Naples are asking a judge to stop LaPointe and his father from selling any property, so money will be left to pay damages.

Heather LaPointe, the defendant's wife, says the family has gone deeply into debt to pay her husband's $100,000 bail and a $275,000 retainer for his criminal defense.

She said in a court filing that the family has not tried to hide any assets.

Prosecutors say LaPointe was driving his 32-foot powerboat at a speed of between 45 and 50 miles per hour after dark on Aug. 11, 2007, on Long Lake in Harrison when it struck the 14-foot boat in which Groetzinger and Trott were riding.

Prosecutors say Robert LaPointe's blood-alcohol content was 0.11 percent three hours after the crash.

Lawyers for relatives of Groetzinger, 44, and Trott, 55, asked Cumberland County Superior Court to stop the LaPointes from selling property and to place liens on properties owned by LaPointe and his father, George LaPointe Jr. of Ashland.

"What we are trying to accomplish is at the end of the day, that there is something left for the family members," said Ben Gideon, a lawyer representing the Groetzinger family.

According to court records, Robert and Heather LaPointe took out a $100,000 equity loan on a summer home in Bridgton and sold 100 acres to Robert LaPointe's father for $125,000 after LaPointe was indicted last fall.

Lawyers for the crash victims say the land transaction took place in an effort to shield assets.

It is not illegal to sell assets in order to get cash for a criminal defense, even if the defendant has been notified of a potential civil suit, according to Walter McKee, past president of the Maine Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers.

McKee said the $275,000 retainer fee for LaPointe's defense is one of the most significant he has heard of in Maine.

Daniel Lilley, a well-known criminal defense lawyer in Maine, said he can't recall any manslaughter cases in which a lawyer was paid $275,000, although total fees have reached that level in murder cases in Maine handled by himself and others.

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