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Lawyer: Kayak death an accident after drinking, not murder

GOSHEN, N.Y. - The lawyer for a woman accused of killing her fiance on the Hudson River by sabotaging his kayak said Friday that the woman is a victim of an accident that occurred in the chilly water after the couple had a few drinks.

Angelika Graswald pleaded not guilty Friday to murder and manslaughter charges in Orange County Court through her lawyer. Defense attorney Richard Portale said after the arraignment that he expects pending autopsy results on Vincent Viafore to indicate accidental drowning, hypothermia and "possible acute alcoholic intoxication."

"I think it's pretty clear that they were drinking, at least had a couple beers," Portale told reporters outside court.

Graswald is charged in the April 19 death of Viafore, whose body was found last weekend in the river near the U.S. Military Academy at West Point.

Prosecutors claim Graswald, 35, removed the drain plug from Viafore's kayak and pushed a floating paddle away from him after his craft capsized and he struggled in the cold, choppy water. They claim she waited 20 minutes to call for help.

Prosecutors said Graswald confessed "it felt good knowing he was going to die" and that she felt trapped in the relationship and knew she was a beneficiary of a $250,000 life insurance policy.

Graswald said she was unable to save Viafore, 46, when he capsized without a life jacket during their trip to scenic Bannerman Island, about 50 miles north of New York City. She was rescued from the water by another boater and treated for hypothermia.

"Miss Graswald is a victim here and this is an accidental drowning," Portale said.

Christopher Boreck, chief assistant district attorney for Orange County, would not comment on Portale's remarks about Viafore's alleged drinking.

Friends of the couple said Graswald and Viafore were an active, affectionate pair who planned to get married at a spot on the Baltic Sea. She was not charged in his death until more than a week after the incident. Prosecutors say she made inconsistent statement to investigators.

Graswald is being held on $3 million bail.