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Police: Hussain DNA on removed limo sticker

Police: Hussain DNA on removed limo sticker

Warning removed before fatal crash
Police: Hussain DNA on removed limo sticker
Nauman Hussain goes through a metal detector at Schoharie Town Court for his arraignment, April 10, 2019.
Photographer: Peter R. Barber/Gazette Photographer

SCHOHARIE — An inspector's sticker ordering that a limousine be taken out of service for brake problems — which was removed before the limousine crashed, killing 20 people — contained the DNA of the operator of the limousine company, a newly released state police lab report indicates.

The state police lab report was among a number of documents that the Schoharie County Court released Friday, as pretrial proceedings continue. Nauman Hussain, 29, of Cohoes, is scheduled to go on trial in January on 20 counts each of second-degree manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.

In other decisions, County Court Judge George R. Barlett III gave Hussain's defense team more time to file motions, and allowed Schoharie County District Attorney Susan J. Mallery to hire a second special prosecutor to help her to prepare for what will be a high-profile trial.

Hussain was the operator of Prestige Limousine of Wilton, a company owned his father, Shaheed, who has remained outside the United States since the crash. Prosecutors allege the younger Hussain hid the fact that the stretched 2001 Ford Expedition had failed inspections for reasons including faulty brakes about a month before the Oct. 6 crash.

State inspectors subsequently affixed a sticker on the limo ordering that it not be used for commercial service.

The crash occurred when the limousine came down a long hill on Route 30 in Schoharie and passed through the stop sign at Route 30A, smashing into a ravine near the Apple Barrel Country Store. The crash killed 17 young adult passengers — most from the Amsterdam area — as well as the driver and two people in the Apple Barrel parking lot.

It was the deadliest transportation incident in the United States in nearly a decade.

In June, Bartlett ordered Hussain to provide a DNA sample so that investigators could compare it to the DNA on the sticker, which had been removed from the Excursion, crumpled, and stuffed into a door pocket.

In the July 29 report made public Friday, the state police forensic investigation center found that the DNA profile "from the swab from the white paper with red writing from the driver side door pocket matches the profile from Nauman A. Hussain. The probability of selecting an unrelated individual with a profile matching this item is less than 1 in 320 billion."

In an Aug. 9 decision released Friday, Barlett granted the defense an extension until Sept. 5 to file an omnibus motion that would raise any challenges to the evidence prosecutors are expected to present at trial. Under a revised schedule, Mallery will have until Sept. 26 to reply.

Any pretrial hearings are now scheduled to start Monday, Nov. 4. Barlett said the trial date of Jan. 6, 2020, will remain the same.

Barlett also approved Mallery's request to appoint Matthew C. Peluso, an assistant state attorney general, as a second special prosecutor to assist her office.

"An extraordinary effort has been necessary to conduct the investigation due to the nature of the criminal conduct, the numerous witnesses involved in the case, the complexity of mechanics, scientific evidence, the preparation of witnesses, and the volume of records involved," Mallery wrote in her July 23 petition to the judge. "The trial in this indictment involves serious crimes and complex issues, as well as specific expertise in the prosecution of these matters."

Since Schoharie is a small-population county, Mallery's professional staff consists only of herself and two part-time prosecutors. In June, Barlett agreed to appoint Assistant Attorney General Gail Heatherly, a former Manhattan prosecutor, to assist. Peluso is a former Albany County assistant district attorney. Both will continue to be paid by the attorney general's office.

The defense has also beefed up, with Hussain's attorney Lee Kindlon of Albany being joined by high-profile defense attorney Joe Tacopina of New York City.

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