BOSTON (CBS) – Kevin Otto, the owner of Atlantic Drain Service, was sentenced to two years in the House of Corrections Thursday, more than three years after two of his workers drowned in a South End trench collapse. Otto was previously convicted on two counts of manslaughter in the men’s deaths.
Suffolk Superior Court Judge Mitchell Kaplan sentenced Otto to two years per count of manslaughter, to be served at the same time. He also said Otto will have three years probation following his sentence, and he can never employ anyone in a job that involves excavation.
The judge allowed a stay of the sentence, allowing a motion to reconsider the case that must be filed by December 31.
Robert Higgins and Kelvin Mattocks were killed on Oct. 21, 2016 in a trench when the walls collapsed and a nearby hydrant ruptured, overwhelming them with a rush of water.
Otto and Atlantic Drain Services had two prior Occupational Safety and Health Administration violations in the past 10 years, and as a result were required to undergo training.
“He has a repetitive record that shows he does not conduct his business in a way that protects his workers,” a prosecutor argued Wednesday in court.
The sentence was orginally scheduled to be handed down Wednesday. Victim impact statements were read, but Kaplan said he needed a day to make his decision.
Prosecutors argued during the trial that the company doctored paperwork to appear that employees had attended training when they had not.
The defense tried to blame the city for failing to maintain the hydrant, but prosecutors said Otto failed to shore up the trench at the Dartmouth Street work site.
On Wednesday when victim impact statements were given, Higgins’ father said he holds Otto “completely responsible” for his son’s death.
“Nothing’s going to bring my son back. By giving him the maximum sentence you can give, you’re going to show other contractors they aren’t going to do that in this city or this state, or they’re going to pay for it,” he said.
Higgins’ sister said Otto deserved a strong sentence, but that wouldn’t bring their family complete closure.
“We have to endure a life sentence of grief,” she said.
Otto’s defense attorney said her client’s life has been destroyed and the company is now out of business. His attorney argued Otto is the sole provider for his mother, sister and son, and sending him to jail would impact them as well. The defense asked for probation or a suspended sentence and said Otto has medical issues.
Sentencing guidelines called for 3.5-to-5 years, but before announcing Otto’s sentence, Judge Kaplan said the case is “so unique” that the guideline was only “marginally useful.”