Jurors deliberate in trial over limousine wreck that killed 20 people in rural New York
SCHOHARIE, N.Y. (AP) — A jury began deliberations Tuesday in the trial of a limousine company manager accused of deadly indifference to safety rules before a crash that killed 20 people.
Nauman Hussain is charged with criminally negligent homicide and second-degree manslaughter in connection with the 2018 wreck of a stretch SUV limousine in Schoharie, New York — one of the deadliest U.S. road wrecks of the past two decades.
Jurors deliberated for just under two hours Tuesday before heading home for the evening. Their discussions were due to continue Wednesday morning.
Earlier Tuesday, relatives of the dead wiped away tears during special prosecutor Frederick Rench’s closing argument.
He said Hussain intentionally failed to follow maintenance regulations for the 2001 Ford Excursion. The stretch SUV was packed with birthday revelers when it hurtled down a hill, went off the road, and hit a parked car and trees before stopping in a streambed.
Prosecutors say defective brakes failed to stop the heavy limo. Rench said that if Hussain had done routine state vehicle inspections, as required, they would’ve revealed brake defects and prevented the wreck.
Hussain’s lawyer, Lee Kindlon, told jurors his client was not to blame. He faulted Mavis Discount Tires, a repair shop that Hussain routinely used.
“Hussain had true belief that he had repaired the brake system, that the brakes were in fine and working order,” Kindlon told jurors. “The people could not prove that Nauman Hussain knew or even should have known that Mavis falsified the repair maintenance and safety inspections.”
Lawyers for Mavis, which is not on trial in the criminal case but is being sued by victims’ families, deny the repair shop is at fault.
Seventeen passengers, the driver and two bystanders died in the crash outside a country store in a village west of Albany.
Witnesses called to testify during the trial included a former Mavis manager, people who witnessed the wreck, and a state Department of Transportation inspector who flagged the SUV-style limousine for violations long before the crash. The defense called no witnesses.
The trial was held after a judge threw out a plea deal last fall that would have spared Hussain prison time.
Maysoon Khan is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues. Follow Maysoon Khan on Twitter.
Maysoon Khan, The Associated Press