Updated: July 10, 2020 11:23 PM
Created: July 10, 2020 06:59 PM
GUILDERLAND - Major developments were announced in the investigation into the Schoharie limousine crash Friday afternoon. Attorneys representing the families of the victims claim a plea bargain is in the works in the criminal case against the operator of the limousine company.
Neither Schoharie County District Attorney Susan Mallery nor defense attorney Lee Kindlon have confirmed that there is a plea deal in the works. But on Friday the attorneys representing the families in the civil case told reporters they have it on good authority that a plea deal could be reached as early as Monday and if it's signed it would only mean probation time for Nauman Hussain.
"Our clients at this point feel that they are being misinformed,” said Cynthia LaFave, attorney for the estates of Adam and Abigail King Jackson.
Attorneys on the civil case said the decision to offer a plea deal in the criminal case is entirely up to the district attorney, but they said their clients have not been included in that process as much as they should have been.
"My client's impression was that the DA was not telling her what was happening so that she was not involved in the process,” said Brian Premo, attorney for the estate of Michael Ujak. “She did not know there were any negotiations, she was led to believe that there were not negotiations. She did not know there was a prospect of a plea deal, she was led to believe that there was a trial coming up."
Families of the victims started asking questions after the DA requested written impact statements from them. The families also told civil case attorneys they were not going to be contacted by probation, leading them to believe the families wouldn't be reading their impact statements in court in front of the defendant.
"You can't have it both ways, if you're looking for a plea deal if that's happening and if you're going to accept responsibility then accept responsibility,” Premo said. “Go through the process and allow these victims their day in court, allow these victims to be heard right in front of you before you are sentenced."
Civil case attorneys said a plea deal in the criminal case will impact their civil case as it requires admission of guilt, but they have some concerns about that too.
They'd like to see a thorough allocution, meaning Hussain would have to give a statement accepting responsibility and offering detail into his role in the crash.
"The question is to what extent are they going to require him to allocute?” said George LaMarche, attorney for the estate of Amanda Halse. “How much is he going to say? Is he going to barely satisfy the elements of the offense? Or is he really going to say what his role was in this?"
Civil case attorneys aren't confident that will happen, especially considering how things have gone so far.
"We don't have an address, we can't serve him and we asked the criminal defense attorney to accept service and he said that he was not authorized by his client to do so,” LaFave said, “So there is no acceptance of responsibility here."
Though attorneys on the civil case can't do anything to stop a plea agreement or ensure families have time to speak in court, there is someone who can.
"The judge controls the court room and the judge has the discretion to stop the clock and let the families talk,” said Sal Ferlazzo, attorney representing the estate of Amanda Rivenburg. “I would ask the judge to do that."
NewsChannel 13 spoke with Kindlon Friday afternoon. He would not comment on a plea deal but said he believes the families of the victims have a right to be heard in court.
NewsChannel 13 also reached out to the Schoharie County District Attorney's office for comment but did not hear back.
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