The Scholarie district attorney released a bombshell letter this week that could shift the blame for last year's deadly limousine crash in upstate New York.
The district attorney sent defense attorneys a letter that says a former Mavis Discount Tire employee admitted staff at the Saratoga Springs store falsified records.
The crash last October killed 20 people when a stretch limousine blew through an intersection at the bottom of a long hill and barreled into an earthen embankment.
According to the letter, the former Mavis Discount Tire employee said records were falsified to meet a corporate sales quota. The Times Union first reported the former employee's accusation.
Virgil Parks was terminated by Mavis Discount Tire in February. Parks was recently interviewed by New York officials and, according to documents obtained by News 4, told investigators sometimes items listed on invoices from the Mavis Saratoga store were "substituted to meet sales quotas."
Scholarie District Attorney Susan Mallery said that Parks claims an invoice dated more than 3 months before the limousine crash indicates brake labor was done to the modified limo. Parks now says the brake service was never completed.
Nauman Hussain, the limousine company manager, is still indicted on manslaughter and criminally neglient homicide counts for each of the 20 victims who died in the crash. Defense attorneys say the new revelations undermine the prosecution's claim that Hussain knew the vehicle was unsafe prior to the crash.
"They have had this information for weeks and what is even more striking is that Mavis very clearly did not perform a brake job," Lee Kindlon, one of the defense attorneys, said Wednesday.
A spokesperson for Mavis Discount Tire called the statements made by Parks and Hussain's defense team "inaccurate or misleading."
"Our service and billing policies are honest, fair and sound and we vehemently disagree with any allegations to the contrary," the statement reads. "Mr. Hussain and his criminal defense lawyers are attempting to falsely attack Mavis in a desperate diversion tactic to shift responsibility away from Mr. Hussain, where it solely belongs."
The spokesperson went on to say that the vehicle in question drove more than a thousand miles over several months since it had been serviced at the shop. "During that time, Mr. Hussain, according to the District Attorney’s Office and the New York State Police, committed serious crimes by, among other things, defying an order to take the vehicle out of service."
Mavis denied causing the fatal accident or having any legal responsibility.
This past Sunday marked one year since the crash.
Last Wednesday, the National Transporation Safety Board released safety recommendations after the Ford Excursion SUV that had been modified into a huge stretch limo crashed.
The safety board recommended to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that lap and shoulder seat belts be required on all new vehicles modified to be used as limousines. The agency also recommended that seating systems in these vehicles meet minimum performance standards to ensure their integrity during a crash.
The carnage in the Scholarie crash, the board wrote, “might have been mitigated by a combination of adequate seat integrity, well-designed passenger lap/shoulder belts, and proper seat belt use.”
None of the 17 passengers appeared to have worn available seat belts at the time of the crash, the board said, and the belts were poorly designed and “would not have provided adequate protection.”
Prosecutors in New York allege the limo company's operator, Nauman Hussain, allowed an improperly licensed driver to operate an "unserviceable" vehicle. Just weeks before the crash, the limo had failed a state inspection that examined such things as the chassis, suspension and brakes.
Hussain has pleaded not guilty to criminally negligent homicide, and his lawyer has said investigators rushed to judgment. His trial is scheduled for January.