A limousine service manager was convicted Wednesday of manslaughter in a crash that killed 20 people in rural New York, one of the deadliest U.S. road wrecks in two decades.
Jurors reached their verdict during their second day of deliberations in the trial of Nauman Hussain, who ran Prestige Limousine. He faces the possibility of up to 15 years in prison at his May 31 sentencing.
Hussain looked disappointed on hearing the verdict. He was taken into custody. A message seeking comment was sent to his attorney.
Applause could be heard in the audience as the jury was discharged.
Packed with birthday revelers, the stretch-style SUV went off the road in 2018 after the vehicle’s brakes failed. The heavy limo hit a parked car and trees before coming to rest in a streambed in Schoharie, a village west of Albany. Seventeen passengers, the driver and two bystanders were killed.
Prosecutors said that Hussain intentionally failed to conduct required, routine state inspections on the 2001 Ford Excursion, and that the checks would have revealed brake defects and prevented the wreck.
Hussain’s lawyer, Lee Kindlon, said that his client had been misled by a repair shop. The shop wasn’t criminally charged and denied it was at fault.
Wednesday’s verdict marked a turning point on an emotional rollercoaster for the victims’ families. After pandemic-related delays in the criminal case, the relatives were exasperated by the 2021 announcement of a plea deal that would have spared Hussain prison time.
In a surprising twist last fall, a judge rejected the deal, leading to the trial a few miles down the road from the accident site.
During the trial, jurors heard from witnesses including a former manager of the repair shop, people who saw 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.