Limo driver charged in crash

The Oneida Daily Dispatch (Oneida, NY) - - Front Page - By Michael Hill and Jen­nifer Peltz As­so­ci­ated Press

A li­mou­sine ser­vice op­er­a­tor was charged Wed­nes­day with crim­i­nally neg­li­gent homi­cide in a crash that killed 20 peo­ple, while po­lice con­tin­ued in­ves­ti­gat­ing what caused the wreck and whether any­one else will face charges.

The op­er­a­tor’s lawyer said that the man wasn’t guilty and that po­lice were rush­ing to judg­ment.

The com­pany, Pres­tige Li­mou­sine, has come un­der in­tense scru­tiny since Satur­day’s crash out­side Al­bany killed two pedes­tri­ans and 18 peo­ple in a su­per-stretch limo.

Pres­tige Li­mou­sine op­er­a­tor Nau­man Hus­sain hired a driver who shouldn’t have been be­hind the wheel of such a car, and the ve­hi­cle shouldn’t have been driven af­ter state in­spec­tors deemed it “un­ser­vice­able” last month, State Po­lice Su­per­in­ten­dent George Beach said at a news con­fer­ence.

“The sole re­spon­si­bil­ity for that mo­tor ve­hi­cle be­ing on the road on Satur­day rests with Nau­man Hus­sain,” Beach said, though he noted that in­ves­ti­ga­tors con­tinue look­ing into whether any­one else should be held ac­count­able.

As Hus­sain, 28, awaited ar­raign­ment, his lawyer, Lee Kind­lon, said his client han­dled only mar­ket­ing du­ties and phone calls, while his fa­ther ran the com­pany, though po­lice called Hus­sain its op­er­a­tor.

“My client is not guilty,” Kind­lon said. “The po­lice jumped the gun in charg­ing him with any crime.”

Un­der New York law, crim­i­nally neg­li­gent homi­cide in­volves not per­ceiv­ing a sub­stan­tial, un­jus­ti­fi­able risk that leads to some­one’s death. It’s pun­ish­able by up to four years in prison.

Po­lice charged Hus­sain with a sin­gle count in­volv­ing all 20 vic­tims. He was ar­rested Wed­nes­day in a traf­fic stop on a high­way near Al­bany.

Hus­sain has had a brush with law en­force­ment be­fore. State po­lice ac­cused him and his brother of claim­ing each other’s names af­ter a 2014 traf­fic stop, which hap­pened while the brother was driv­ing with­out a valid li­cense.

Their fa­ther, Pres­tige Li­mou­sine owner Sha­hed Hus­sain, also has a his­tory with law en­force­ment — as a gov­ern­ment in­for­mant in ter­ror plot in­ves­ti­ga­tions af­ter the Sept. 11 at­tacks.

In Satur­day’s crash, a 19-seater Pres­tige limo ran a stop sign and plowed into a parked SUVat the bot­tom of a long hill in Schoharie, about 25 miles west of Al­bany. The crash ap­peared to be the na­tion’s dead­li­est traf­fic ac­ci­dent since a bus full of Texas nurs­ing home pa­tients caught fire while f lee­ing 2005’s Hur­ri­cane Rita, killing 23.

Gov. An­drew Cuomo said Mon­day that the limo driver didn’t have the re­quired com­mer­cial li­cense, and that Pres­tige Li­mou­sine “had no busi­ness putting a failed ve­hi­cle on the road.”

The limo had been writ­ten up Sept. 4 for code vi­o­la­tions, in­clud­ing a prob­lem with the antilock brakes’ malfunction in­di­ca­tor sys­tem.

A sticker was placed on the ve­hi­cle declar­ing it “un­ser­vice­able,” state Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion spokesman Joseph Mor­ris­sey said.

It was the lat­est in a se­ries of in­spec­tion knocks for the Gan­sevoort, New York-based com­pany. Four of its limos were cited this year with a to­tal of 22main­te­nance vi­o­la­tions, though none was deemed crit­i­cal.

Kind­lon told CBS News on Tues­day the “safety is­sues had been ad­dressed and cor­rected,” say­ing many were mi­nor. But Mor­ris­sey said any as­ser­tion that the limo in­volved in the crash had been cleared for ser­vice was “cat­e­gor­i­cally false.”

Kind­lon said he didn’t think the in­frac­tions con­trib­uted to the crash. He sug­gested the driver, who died in the crash, might havemis­judged his mo­men­tum on the hill.

The T-intersection at the bot­tom was a known dan­ger spot, Kind­lon noted. It was re­built af­ter a deadly 2008 wreck, but there have since been other ac­ci­dents at the junc­tion.

“I think, frankly, the Depart­ment of Trans­porta­tion and the state of NewYork is do­ing a great job in say­ing, ‘Look over there! It’s not our fault!’” Kind­lon said, sug­gest­ing the state “faces an in­cred­i­ble amount of li­a­bil­ity if they’re found to be at fault.”

AP PHOTO/HANS PEN­NINK

Shahyer Hus­sain, the brother of Nau­man Hus­sain, leaves Troop G head­quar­ters in Latham ,N.Y., on Wed­nes­day, Oct. 10, 2018, Nau­man Hus­sain was taken into cus­tody to face crim­i­nal charges in con­nec­tion with the fam­ily’s Pres­tige Li­mou­sine ser­vice, in­volved in Satur­day’s fa­tal crash in Schoharie, N.Y., that killed 20peo­ple.

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