Woman who lost arm in boat accident ‘doing fine,’ relative says
A Charlestown lawyer and night life impresario who was allegedly drunk when his boat's propeller cut off a young woman's arm had his bail reduced Tuesday, as the investigation continues into the gruesome Saturday night incident on Boston Harbor.
Bail for Benjamin Urbelis, 33, was dropped from $75,000 to $10,000. Urbelis, whose website boasts of his success in drunken driving cases, has pleaded not guilty to charges that include causing serious bodily injury while operating a boat under the influence.
"While the full extent of the defendant's operation and control of the boat are under investigation, we agreed it was an appropriate step at this point," said Jake Wark, a spokesman for the Suffolk district attorney's office.
It was not clear whether Urbelis had posted bail. His lawyer did not return a call Tuesday afternoon.
A 19-year-old Auburn woman, identified in a police report as Nicole Berthiaume, lost her right arm when it became caught in the propeller of Urbelis's boat, Naut Guilty. Reached at her home in Worcester, Berthiaume's grandmother, Mary DePasquale, said Berthiaume is "doing fine."
Berthiaume was one of several people who jumped into the water to retrieve a seat cushion that blew off the boat, according to court documents.
As Urbelis attempted to drop anchor, Berthiaume struggled to climb back aboard, prosecutors said. Her arm went into the boat's propeller and was severed above the elbow.
The 29-foot Chaparral 290 Signature boat was carrying 14 people, according to police — four men in their 30s, nine women ages 19-22, and a 15-year-old boy. The 290 Signature is "yacht certified," according to manufacturer's documents, and has no set capacity.
But the boat, according to a police report, was also well stocked with alcohol. Urbelis initially declined a sobriety test, police said, but allegedly tested at 0.09 — above the legal limit of 0.08 — when he assented four hours later.
In addition to his law practice, Urbelis is part owner of a Financial District bar and lounge, Julep Bar, and in 2008 — the same year he was admitted to the Massachusetts bar — he founded a night life promotion business called Top Shelf Entertainment.
The lawyer, who often handled drunken driving allegations by day, spent weekend nights building a reputation as an impresario who gathered revelers and well-known local DJs for dance parties at downtown clubs.
Occasionally, his businesses would converge. The website of Urbelis's law firm says he "is well-known to many in the hospitality industry as their first call when in legal trouble."
On the website of Top Shelf Entertainment, he touted the results he got as a promoter.
"It's insane," said Urbelis in a video from 2008. "We've got four floors packed every single Friday. We're at capacity by 10:30."
But one of Urbelis's night life ventures also ran into some problems. Julep Bar, at 200 High St. in Boston, was found in violation of underage drinking laws last month, according to the Massachusetts state treasurer's office.
Police have not said whether they believe the underage guests on the Naut Guilty — including Berthiaume — were drinking Saturday.