SCHOHARIE -- Attorneys for Nauman Hussain, who faces numerous charges in the Schoharie limousine crash that killed 20 people, continued to seek dismissal of the case against him in court papers filed Thursday in Schoharie County Court.
They said prosecutors are using Hussain as a "scapegoat" in a highly emotional and sensational case stemming from last October's crash near of the village of Schoharie. Investigators have concluded that the stretch limousine's brakes failed on a long hill, leading to the crash.
In a new response to prosecution filings, defense attorney Joseph Tacopina of New York City said Nauman relied on good faith on the Mavis Discount Tire store in Saratoga Springs to have properly serviced the 2001 Ford Excursion stretch limousine, including its brakes.
"Allowing the indictment to stand on this record would impose upon the driving public the onerous and unreasonable burden of becoming mechanical experts, in order to personally confirm that its vehicles are roadworthy," Tacopina wrote in a reply memorandum of law sent to County Court Judge George R. Barlett III.
Bartlett continues to weigh the original defense motion to dismiss the charges against Hussain.
Hussain, 29, of Wilton, is charged with 20 counts each of second-degree manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide in connection with the crash on Oct. 6, 2018, at the intersection of state routes 30 and 30A, which killed the driver, 17 passengers, and two pedestrians in the parking lot of the Apple Barrel Country Store.
Hussain, as the operator of Prestige Limousine and Chauffer Services of Wilton, was arrested days after the crash and subsequently indicted by a grand jury. Prosecutors contend Hussain is criminally responsible because he knew or should have known the vehicle was unsafe, due to mechanical issues including brake problems.
The defense, however, is contending that Hussain relied on Mavis, which serviced the vehicle, including the brakes, on several occasions in 2017 and 2018. "A person is not guilty of homicide for a fatal vehicular accident after having the vehicle served at a supposedly reputable mechanic simply because the mechanic was negligent or reckless," Tacopina wrote in the new filing.
Prosecutors, in extensive paperwork filed with the court last week, contend that Mavis mechanics and a state Department of Transportation vehicle inspector warned Hussain about the vehicle's condition, and that it was not properly registered or inspected. A former Mavis manager has told investigators Hussain was billed for different brake work than what was performed during a May 11, 2018, service and inspection appointment.
Mavis, which like the Hussains is named in a number of civil lawsuits, has denied it did any work improperly or bears any responsibility for the fatal crash.
If the indictment stands, trail in Schoharie County Court is scheduled for March.