Kevin Otto, the former owner of Atlantic Drain currently awaiting trial on manslaughter charges related to the deaths of two of his employees, has been charged with multiple unrelated crimes and is driving with a revoked license, an NBC10 Boston Investigation has found.
The family of one of the two men killed in 2016 said Otto is flouting the law, and his behavior is fresh salt in their wounds as they anticipate seeing Otto stand trial for the death of their loved one.
Otto, 44, was released after receiving the manslaughter charges with an admonition to stay out of trouble.
But in the time since, he was arrested for drunken driving in Rhode Island and for driving without a license in Foxboro. He also continues to drive even though his license is revoked, and appears to drink before getting behind the wheel of his work van.
For Martin Hewitt, the death of his nephew is a wound fresh and raw.
Robbie Higgins drowned in 2016 when the trench he was working in collapsed.
“To be killed, the way he was killed, he was basically…. It was awful,” Hewitt said.
Higgins and co-worker Kelvin Mattocks died on Oct. 21, 2016, when the trench where they were working in Boston’s South End filled with water and collapsed.
Prosecutors said Otto “willfully and recklessly” ignored safety precautions that could have saved their lives.
Otto and Atlantic Drain had a history of OSHA safety violations, including failure to secure trenches.
“Obviously, he didn’t care,” said Hewitt.
Otto pleaded not guilty to the manslaughter charges last year and is expected to stand trial early next year. But in the meantime, the NBC10 Boston Investigators found he has had other brushes with the law.
“What am I on TV for? I didn’t request this,” he said to an NBC10 Boston investigative reporter asking about his behavior.
Last summer, Foxboro police arrested Otto for driving an Atlantic Drain truck with a suspended license and vehicle registration.
According to police, Otto told the officer he didn’t know the registration was suspended but had no excuse for driving illegally.
In court, the prosecutor agreed to drop the criminal misdemeanor charges against Otto if he paid two fines, but court documents show it took an arrest warrant to get him to pay.
Fewer than three weeks after the Foxboro incident, Otto was arrested again. This time, in Bristol, Rhode Island, on a charge of driving under the influence of alcohol.
Like many first time offenders, he pleaded guilty to refusing a chemical test. In Rhode Island, that’s a civil misdemeanor.
“It just aggravates the hell out of me because he obviously doesn’t care,” Hewitt said. “He’s breaking the law left and right.”
A Rhode Island judge ordered Otto to perform community service, complete an alcohol education program and pay fines. Massachusetts revoked his license indefinitely.
But Otto has failed to perform the community service, did not undergo alcohol education, and never paid the bulk of his fines.
And the NBC10 Boston Investigators have watched him drive more than 10 times over the last two months.
Confronted with his driving and behavior, Otto denied driving.
“Why don’t you bother somebody else?” he said to the reporter.
Our cameras rolled as Otto ran errands, went to restaurants, and drove to job sites in Boston and beyond.
On a recent afternoon, NBC10 Boston video recorded Otto as he sat at a Walpole bar drinking what appeared to be two beers and two shots in less than an hour. He then climbed right back behind the wheel of his work van and drove away.
“I would have thought he would have been a little more careful in his personal life given that he’s going to be in front of a judge for manslaughter. Two counts,” Hewitt said.
Atlantic Drain, which Otto since has signed over to his mother, is barred from doing any trench work by OSHA, but Otto is still permitted to snake drains and perform other services.
Hewitt said he was not particularly sympathetic to any argument that Otto has to make a living.
“Ah, well, Robbie had to earn a living too. And how did he end up?” he said.
Asked if the district attorney’s office would alert the court to the charges, Suffolk DA spokesman Jake Wark wrote in an email, "The decision would likely rest on the nature of the new offense. Because the only consequence in the pre-trial stage would be a bail revocation, and because a judge could only revoke on a finding that ‘there are no conditions of release that will reasonably assure the person will not pose a danger to the safety of any other person or the community,’ it would be fruitless under the law to inform the court of a now-adjudicated non-violent offense."
Wark added, “There’s no mechanism for a new out-of-state charge to be transmitted to Massachusetts courts in a timely and reliable fashion. Such a notification would probably require the states to work together to implement, but as a matter of practice it would likely help all agencies involved.”