WISCASSET — A Massachusetts man charged with operating a boat that killed a Camden woman last summer will be fined $400 as part of a plea agreement that was sharply criticized by the family of the victim.

A manslaughter charge and an operating at an imprudent speed charge against Jonathan D. Roberts, 44, of Waban, Mass., were dismissed Monday at the Lincoln County Courthouse as part of a deferred disposition reached between the defense and district attorney’s office.

Kristen McKellar Photo courtesy of Alison McKellar

Roberts pleaded guilty to reckless operation of a watercraft in the death of Kristen McKellar, 32.

If he refrains from criminal conduct and completes 100 hours of community service during the next year that charge also will be dismissed and he will be fined $400 for the civil offense of operating a boat at greater than headway speed within a water safety zone.

Roberts was indicted in January on charges of manslaughter, reckless operation of a watercraft and operating a watercraft at an imprudent speed in connection with the Aug. 2, 2018, incident on Damariscotta Lake in Jefferson in which McKellar, 32, was struck and killed while she was swimming close to shore with a friend.

Roberts pleaded not guilty last year and has been free on $1,500 cash bail.

McKellar’s father, mother, and sister spoke at the hearing about the impact of the young woman’s death.

McKellar’s sister said the family had some relief when Roberts was indicted, but she said the case has been treated differently since a change in leadership at the district attorney’s office.

“This is the legal equivalent of a shrug of the shoulders,” Alison McKellar said. “This felt like the ‘Twilight Zone.'”

She also called the agreement a “joke” that would send a message to boaters that they can kill someone and not get more than community service. She said her sister regularly had given 100 hours a month to her community.

Hugh McKellar said this was the first time he got to see face to face the man who killed his daughter.  He called the sentence a slap on the wrist.

“This is not justice,” he said. “There are no consequences for your action.”

Roberts admitted to going full speed within 150 feet of shore, Hugh McKellar said.

He said a jury should have heard the case and decided the outcome.

Roberts is represented by attorney Walter McKee of Augusta. McKee said the death was an accident.

The Maine Warden Service investigated the case. McKee said that the warden service determined the speed could have been as low as 17 mph. He said no alcohol was involved. The defense attorney also said the warden service said the flipper McKellar waved before being struck was found 420 feet from shore, indicating that she could have been more than 200 feet from shore.

After the hearing Monday, District Attorney Natasha Irving said that the investigation estimated the speed of Roberts’ boat at 17 to 18 mph based on witness statements.

“The agreement takes into account Mr. Roberts’ responsibility for this tragedy, but also the state’s conclusion that the likelihood of obtaining a conviction at trial is extremely low,” Irving said in a statement she issued after the hearing. “Neither the District Attorney’s office nor the McKellar family are satisfied with the outcome, but the state is convinced this result is the best that could be obtained based on the facts and the existing laws.”

Irving said she is working with the warden service and representatives in the Maine Legislature to propose new laws that will promote safer boating to avoid another tragedy on Maine’s waters and hold accountable those whose actions make the state’s waters unsafe.

Justice Daniel Billings said the agreement was a compromise and there were different ways to look at the facts. He said that it would have been a difficult case for the district attorney’s to have won if it went to trial.

The maximum sentence for manslaughter in Maine is 30 years in prison, but that is reserved for the most serious cases in which the defendant has a lengthy criminal record.

If Roberts violates terms of the agreement, he could face up to 364 days in jail for reckless operation.

Roberts spoke briefly and said he thinks about McKellar daily and the impact on her family.

The agreement was reached during a closed-door conference between the prosecution, the defense and Justice Paul Fritzsche.

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