LATHAM, N.Y. (AP) - Police charged a limousine service operator Wednesday with criminally negligent homicide in a crash that killed 20 people, while the man’s lawyer said that he wasn’t guilty and that police were rushing to judgment.
Prestige Limousine operator Nauman Hussain was taken into custody Wednesday in a traffic stop on a highway near Albany, New York State Police said.
The company, which Hussain’s father owns, has come under intense scrutiny since Saturday’s crash outside Albany killed two pedestrians and 18 people in a super-stretch limo. It was taking a group to a birthday bash.
Prestige’s vehicles have been cited with a roster of safety violations, and state officials have said the limo involved in the crash failed an inspection and was declared “unserviceable” Sept. 4. The company’s lawyer, Lee Kindlon, has said safety problems were fixed, though the state says that’s not so.
As Hussain awaited arraignment and police planned a news briefing on the case, Kindlon said the 28-year-old Hussain just handled marketing duties and phone calls while his father ran the company, though police call Hussain its operator.
“My client is not guilty,” Kindlon told reporters gathered outside a state police headquarters in Latham. “The police jumped the gun in charging him with any crime.”
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.
In Saturday’s crash, a 19-seater Prestige limo ran off the road and plowed into a parked SUV at 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 fleeing 2005’s Hurricane Rita, killing 23.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo said Monday that the limo driver didn’t have the required commercial license, that the limo had failed a September inspection and that the company “had no business putting a failed vehicle on the road.”
“Prestige has a lot of questions to answer,” the Democrat said at the time.
The limo had been cited Sept. 4 for code violations, including a problem with the antilock brakes’ malfunction indicator system.