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Hudson Valley News  is published weekly on Wednesdays.

    Angelina Graswald, a 37-year-old Latvian native, was sentenced to one and a half to four years in prison for criminally negligent homicide in the drowning death of her boyfriend Vincent Viafore on April 19, 2015 in the Hudson River. Graswald was originally charged with second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter in Viafore’s death. The couple had taken a kayaking trip to Bannerman’s Island on a cold spring day.

    As part of her plea bargain, Graswald admitted helping cause Viafore’s drowning by removing the plug from his kayak. She also admitted she was aware that the locking clip on one of Viafore’s paddles was missing and he was not wearing either a life vest or wetsuit despite the dangerously cold water. Initially Graswald told investigators she was happy Viafore died and that she was free of him. She also indicated she knew she was the primary beneficiary of two of his life insurance policies totaling $250,000.

   Graswald’s lawyers argued that her statements were the result of an 11-hour interview and her statement was coerced by police. Her lawyers also pointed out that Graswald gave conflicting accounts during that interview and the statement stopped short of a direct confession. The defense also cited the victim’s blood alcohol level of .066 percent as a factor in his death.

     Graswald did not speak in her defense at sentencing but did issue a statement. “Never would I have imagined waking up one day and finding myself behind bars. I love Vincent very much and miss him terribly. My intention was for the two of us to come home. But from the minute I was pulled from the water, they labeled me a defendant.” Graswald went on to say she wasn’t treated fairly. “I’ve learned that you are not innocent until proven guilty. I am not a murderer and would do anything to bring Vincent back.”

     Judge Robert Freehill took a different view saying Graswald “failed to perceive a substantial risk” to Viafore’s life. “Was it removing  a plug from the kayak, which appears to have been done months before. Was it tampering with the clip on the paddle? Not really. It was the immediate acts of your being in your kayak and Vincent floundering in the water and you not taking any steps to try to help him. Those actions, combined with statements you made to police, show you certainly have a lack of understanding other people’s feelings. You exhibit such exaggerated feelings of self-worth and Vincent Viafore’s was the unnecessary victim of that.”

    Graswald was remanded back to the Orange County Jail and will likely be paroled in late December. She has been in jail since April 2015 and that time served is applied to her sentence. Upon the completion of 16 months of parole, Graswald is likely to be deported back to her native Latvia.

Hudson Valley News  is published weekly on Wednesdays.

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