SCHOHARIE — Nauman Hussain’s manslaughter trial in connection with the deadly 2018 Schoharie limousine crash has been postponed until May 4, as attorneys continue the discovery process and await more lab results.
Schoharie County Court Judge George R. Bartlett III announced the new trial date, pushed back from March 9 to May 4, following a 90-minute conference on Wednesday with District Attorney Susan Mallery and three defense attorneys representing Hussain. Another pre-trial conference will be held March 30.
Hussain, 30, of Wilton, faces 20 counts each of second-degree manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide, stemming from the Oct. 6, 2018, stretch limousine crash in Schoharie that killed 20 people, including everyone in the stretch limousine. The passengers were young adults, most from the Amsterdam area, on their way to a 30th birthday celebration in Cooperstown.
Hussain was the operator of the limousine company, Prestige Limousine, though it is owned by his father, Shahad Hussain, who has been outside the United States since before the crash.
Prosecutors allege that the stretched 2001 Ford Excursion had mechanical problems, including brake issues, that Hussain had not adequately addressed, leading to the vehicle suffering catastrophic brake failure while coming down a long hill toward the intersection of state routes 30 and 30A. It ran through a stop sign and crashed into a ravine, killing 17 passengers, the driver, and two pedestrians in the parking lot of the Apple Barrel Country Store.
Joseph Tacopina, a high-profile New York City defense attorney added to the defense team last summer, made his first appearance in the Schoharie case at the pre-trial conference, and said afterward, “We are looking for a just resolution with regard to everyone.”
Hussain maintains his innocence. Tacopina previewed a defense in which Hussain puts the blame on the Mavis Tire Store in Saratoga Springs, which serviced the limousine on several occasions and has been accused of falsifying service records. Mavis has denied responsibility for the crash.
“I was shocked by the Mavis revelation, but I don’t think there’s anything more coming out like that,” Tacopina said of the discovery process. “It’s a horrific case all the way around. It’s horrific for my client because he’s accused of something he didn’t do, and it’s horrific for the families, horrific for everyone.”
He said the new discovery requirements for prosecutors that took effect on Jan. 1, which have greatly increased the workload on prosecutors, have slowed the discovery process in the Hussain case. The attorneys are also waiting for the results of lab tests being done in Texas on fluids from the vehicle, he said.
Mallery declined to comment.
Hussain, who is free on a $450,000 bail bond, potentially faces up to 15 years in prison if convicted. He, his father and the limousine company also face numerous civil lawsuits from the families of victims of the crash.
Tacopina said Hussain could ask to have his bail exonerated under the new criminal justice reforms, but has chosen not to out of consideration for the victims’ families.