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‘No one wins in this kind of case’: 21-year-old sentenced to 18 months in jail for boat crash that killed local lacrosse player Nick Barton

After entering a sudden guilty plea Wednesday afternoon, a 21-year-old Churchton man was sentenced to 18 months in jail for his role in a deadly boat crash last summer that killed Nick Barton, a promising young lacrosse player at Anne Arundel Community College.

On June 4, 2022, while drinking with friends, Shayne Kenneth Smith was speeding a center console boat along the West River when he collided with a channel piling near Parish Creek. The crash sent everyone on board into the water. Five of them resurfaced. Barton, who was 21, did not.

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Just more than a year later, and a little more than a month before his case was scheduled for trial, Smith pleaded guilty to negligent manslaughter by boat and had most of a 10-year sentence suspended by Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Stacy McCormack.

Smith will serve his time at one of the county’s detention centers, according to defense attorney Mandeep Chhabra, and during a five-year probationary period with no drugs or alcohol, he will be barred from operating a boat as well.

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“It was a very tragic incident that resulted in an entire community being affected,” Chhabra said, “and I think the judge did a great job in tempering her sentence to make sure two lives weren’t totally ruined by not sending Shayne to prison.”

Through friends and family, Barton’s death has generated wave after wave of community support, inspiring memorial scholarships, lacrosse matches and, earlier this week, a golf tournament.

Marie Barton, center, holds a framed jersey signed by the Anne Arundel Community College lacrosse teammates of her son Nick Barton during a ceremony retiring Nick’s jersey number prior to AACC’s lacrosse game against Army at AACC on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023. Nick Barton, 21, of Crofton died in a boating accident on West River last year. Also pictured are, from left, Joe Stanilaus, former AACC lacrosse head coach who coached Nick for three years, current AACC lacrosse coach Jeremy Ross, Nick’s father Ed Barton and brother Tyler Barton.

As such, rows of loved ones gathered in Annapolis Wednesday to tell McCormack what Barton meant to them. According to Marie Barton, Nick Barton’s mother, many of the victim impact statements submitted to the court were written Monday at the Crofton Country Club, soon after they heard about Smith’s intention to plea.

“I just got to take a deep breath and I just got to keep fighting,” Marie Barton told The Capital after the hearing. “I am on a mission to make sure no other family goes through what our family has gone through, what our community has gone through.”

Through a family charity, the Nicholas Barton Memorial Foundation, Barton’s mother said she will continue to advocate for safer boating regulations that treat water safety equally as road safety.

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“A vessel is the same as a motor vehicle,” Marie Barton said. “The law needs to be the same.”

Reflecting on the case and the young man’s “poor decision,” State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess made similar remarks, saying Barton’s death “reminds us that operating a vessel while impaired can be just as deadly as operating a motor vehicle on the road.”

According to Chhabra, when tested, Smith had a 0.1 blood alcohol concentration — .02 points more than the state’s legal limit, though Smith was 20 at the time — and also had marijuana in his system.

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“The defendant needed to be the one person on the boat who abstained from substances,” Leitess said. “Instead, he risked everyone’s life by drinking and using marijuana before the crash.”

Initially indicted with recklessness and impairment charges, Smith’s prosecution was handled by assistant state’s attorney Carolynn Grammas.

Chhabra said Wednesday that Barton’s death was not a match between “Team Shayne” and “Team Nick,” but that they were friends, former lacrosse teammates at South River High School. Barton was one grade level above Smith.

“There is no winner in this situation,” Marie Barton added. “No one wins in this kind of case. Both families are impacted, but their son gets to come home and mine will not, because of something that could have been avoided.”


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