Limo service operator appears in court
COBLESKILL, N.Y. — 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.
Nauman Hussain, 28, showed little emotion as he was arraigned Wednesday evening in an Albanyarea court, and he ignored shouted questions from reporters as he left after posting $150,000 bond. A judge had entered a not guilty plea for him.
Earlier, his lawyer said that Hussain wasn’t guilty and that police were rushing to judgment in investigating Saturday’s stretch limo wreck.
But State Police Superintendent George Beach said 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.
“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 in the crash.
Hussain’s car was packed with luggage when he was stopped Wednesday on a highway near Albany, Schoharie County District Attorney Susan Mallery said.
Hussain’s lawyer, Lee Kindlon, said his client felt unsafe at home because he’d gotten threats.
The company, Prestige Limousine, has come under intense scrutiny since a 19-seater limo ran a stop sign and plowed into a parked SUV at the bottom of a long hill Saturday. The impact killed two pedestrians and 18 people in the limo, which was taking a group to a birthday bash.
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.
Charged with a single count involving all 20 victims, Hussain spoke in a clear, firm voice as he gave brief answers to the judge’s questions about his finances and living arrangements.
He turned twice to nod at relatives in the courtroom audience.
NAUMAN HUSSAIN, LEFT, LEAVES COBLESKILL TOWN COURT arraignment Wednesday. with his attorney Lee Kindlon after