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Driver in Arborway crash that left 2 paralyzed gets jail

Nikolas Papadopoulos, 20, was sentenced to a year behind bars for his role in the September 2013 crash.Suzanne Kreiter/Globe staff/Globe Staff

When Nikolas Papadopoulos apologized Wednesday for causing a 2013 crash that paralyzed a 36-year-old father and one of Papadopoulos’s teenage passengers, the two people who suffered the most were not there to hear it.

Moments before the apology, Kevin Cellucci, who sustained a traumatic brain injury in the horrific Arborway collision and uses a wheelchair, was taken from the courtroom by his wife, Tina. He appeared to become upset while watching a video of him playing with his sons before the September 2013 wreck.

And Mark Delamere Jr., 17, who was riding in the 2003 Mazda Tribute that Papadopoulos was driving that day, did not attend the sentencing hearing in Brighton Municipal Court. His spinal cord was severed in the crash, according to his uncle.


Their absence crystallized the many ways, large and small, that the lives of Cellucci and Delamere were changed forever by Papadopoulos’s actions.

“I’m truly sorry,” said Papadopoulos, 20. “Never in my life would I have wanted to put anyone through something like this. I never want anyone to get hurt by my actions.”

Papadopoulos faced up to two years in jail after a jury convicted him last month of negligent operation of a motor vehicle.

Judge Debra Shopteese sentenced him to serve one year behind bars, followed by five years of probation.

She also ordered Papadopoulos to complete 2,000 hours of community service helping patients with spinal cord and traumatic brain injuries, complete an advanced driving course, and relinquish his driver’s license until 2021.

Suffolk Assistant District Attorney Montez Haywood asked that he serve 18 months in jail.

“This case makes tragically clear that choices have consequences,” Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley said in a statement. “The defendant made a choice to speed at almost 60 miles per hour in a 30 mile per hour zone, but it will be others who live with the consequences.”


While Papadopoulos’s sentence was read, a woman who was supporting him doubled over and sobbed. She later addressed friends and relatives of Cellucci and Delamere.

“I hope everyone’s happy now,” she said.

Lawyers for both families said they are considering civil lawsuits.

“The sentences that are imposed on Kevin Cellucci and Mark Delamere are life sentences. That’s how the family feels,” said Shawn P. O’Rourke, an attorney for Cellucci’s family. “They are thankful to the court for giving what they believe to be the appropriate sentence.”

In November 2014, Papadopoulos had signaled his intention to accept responsibility for the crash and avoid a trial. But after learning he would be sentenced to a year in jail, he abruptly withdrew his plea.

Delamere’s mother, Sheila, lashed out at Papadopoulos for prolonging the legal proceedings.

“What about the sentence you imposed on Mark?” she asked. “He doesn’t get a do-over.”

At trial, Haywood argued Papadopoulos was speeding on the Arborway in Jamaica Plain when he lost control of his car and clipped the median. The SUV began to roll before it collided with a pickup truck driven by Cellucci. Papadopoulos was driving three of his classmates from Boston Latin Academy.

A lawyer for Papadopoulos, John Amabile, countered that there was no posted speed limit on that stretch of road and that the accident happened after Papadopoulos swerved to avoid another driver.

He asked the judge that Papadopoulos be spared jail time.


“This is a terrible tragedy. It was not caused by any intentional conduct,” Amabile said. “For that reason, the interests of justice strongly weigh against the imposition of a prison sentence for Nikolas Papadopoulos.”

After Papadopoulos’s sentence was imposed, Amabile filed paperwork signaling that his client plans to appeal his conviction and requested that his jail term be stayed until an appellate court rules on the case. Shopteese did not immediately make a decision on those requests.

Cellucci can no longer walk or communicate on his own. Mark Glynn, who was in the truck during the crash, spoke of Cellucci’s three sons, ages 8, 6, and 2. They were cheated, he said.

“They may have a few videos and a couple of pictures, but they will never have the man that they had,” Glynn said.

Prosecutors said Nikolas Papadopoulos was driving well over the speed limit when he lost control on a curve on the Arborway.Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff/File/Globe Staff

Laura Crimaldi can be reached at laura.crimaldi@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @lauracrimaldi.