EDITORIAL: No justice in Schoharie crash

MARC SCHULTZ/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER
Schoharie limo accident memorial site on Route 30A.
PHOTOGRAPHER:
MARC SCHULTZ/GAZETTE PHOTOGRAPHER Schoharie limo accident memorial site on Route 30A.
Axel J. Steenburg
Richard M. Steenburg
Amy L. Steenburg
Allison King
Mary E. Dyson
Robert J. Dyson
Abigail M. Jackson
Matthew W. Coons
Savannah D. Bursese
Patrick K. Cushing
Amanda D. Halse
Erin R. McGowan
Shane T. McGowan
Amanda Rivenburg
Adam G. Jackson
Rachael K. Cavosie
Michael C. Ukaj
Scott T. Lisinicchia
Brian Hough
James Schnurr
Twenty victims.
Twenty lives, ended in an instant.
Dozens of friends and family members, devastated.
Zero prison time for the man responsible.
Our legal system is designed to provide justice for the victims of crimes.
What happened on Thursday was not justice. It was a travesty of epic proportions. And we all are diminished because of it.
Nauman Hussain, the operator of Prestige Limousine and Chauffeur Service, pleaded guilty on Thursday to 20 counts of criminally negligent homicide, one count for each person killed in the limousine crash on Oct. 6, 2018 at the intersection of Routes 30 and 30A in Schoharie.
Shortly after 1 p.m. that day, the limo carrying 17 friends on their way to a birthday celebration sped down the steep hill at speeds approaching 100 mph and crashed into an SUV parked in the Apple Barrel Country Store’s parking lot. All 17 passengers were killed, along with the limo driver and two pedestrians walking in the parking lot.
A 103-page report released by the National Transportation Safety Board in November 2020 found the owner demonstrated an “egregious disregard for safety” that included dispatching an unsafe limousine in violation of safety standards, including an unsafe braking system that experienced catastrophic failure. The report also cited the state’s lax oversight of inspections and repair verification that allowed the limo to remain on the road.
But it was Hussain who was responsible for maintaining the vehicle. It was Hussain who allowed it to carry passengers despite him knowing its mechanical issues. It was Hussain who put all those lives at risk. It was Hussain who should be punished.
But instead of getting prison time, as virtually anyone facing such charges would be getting, Hussain was allowed to plead guilty and accept a penalty of five years probation and 1,000 hours of community service.
That works out to 50 hours of community service for each of the victims – an extended work week of picking up trash alongside the road for each of 20 lives taken.
If he’d been acting in a reckless and dangerous manner while driving the vehicle, he’d likely be going to prison.
Earlier this summer, a driver who rear-ended a state trooper’s vehicle, resulting in the trooper’s death, was sentenced to 1 to 3 years in prison on one count of the same charge levied against Hussain.
People who commit crimes like burglary, check fraud and vandalism routinely face time behind bars.
But because Hussain did everything to contribute to the deaths of those 20 individuals in the crash except get behind the wheel, he gets off virtually scot-free.
Of course, no amount of prison time will bring back the people killed. No punishment, no matter how severe, will take away the agony and loss experienced by the victims’ family members and friends.
But if our justice system allows people who harm others to get away with an act as irresponsible, criminal and deadly as this, then none of us are safe. We are all at risk.
Justice was not served on Thursday.
No justice for the victims. No justice for the families. No justice for society.
How could this happen?
And how can we make sure it never happens again?

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

One Comment

‘Earlier this summer, a driver who rear-ended a state trooper’s vehicle, resulting in the trooper’s death, was sentenced to 1 to 3 years in prison on one count of the same charge levied against Hussain.’

Two sets of laws. This has been going on in this country forever. Laws do not affect the wealthy or politicians – who, incidentally, are usually wealthy – from your money. In the other example, if that trooper had rear ended a civilian and killed him or her, there would have been at most, a reprimand for the trooper who ‘made a mistake’ or ‘misdrove’ the patrol car. When are people going to have had enough and put a stop to this government over-reach in every aspect of their lives? Never is my guess. Osama Bin Laden was 100% correct in saying Americans are spineless and have no will. Therefore, this is the kind of justice Americans can expect. The Elite and the commoner. Nothing will ever change, so get used to it.

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