Hussain attorneys submit final brief in appeals case against Lynch

ALBANY – Lawyers for Nauman Hussain, the Colonie man facing blame in the 2018 limousine crash in Schoharie that killed 20 people, assert in their latest appeal filing that state Supreme Court Justice Peter Lynch had no legal right or justification to force Hussain to drop a no -jail guilty plea deal negotiated under the case’s previous judge.

The Appellate Division’s Third Department, based in Albany, is scheduled to hear oral arguments in the appeals case on Feb. 22 from Hussain’s legal team, as well as Lynch’s attorney, Angela Kelley.

In the final brief allowed before oral arguments later this month, Hussain’s legal team of Lee Kindlon, Joe Tacopina and Chad Seigel once again made the argument that Lynch, who took over the case in August after Schoharie County Court Judge George Bartlett III retired, was not legally justified throwing out the plea deal.

Under the deal, which Hussain and District Attorney Susan Mallery agreed to in September 2021, Hussain pleaded guilty to 20 counts of criminally negligent homicide in exchange for serving five years of probation and performing 1,000 hours of community service, which had to be completed within two years.

Bartlett structured the plea deal so that Hussain would serve up to two years of interim probation, and if he failed to comply with the terms of the plea agreement, the court could sentence him to prison. Criminally negligent homicide carries a maximum sentence of up to four years in state prison.

Hussain appeared in Schoharie County Court Aug. 31 for what was scheduled to be Hussain’s official sentencing under the plea deal. Hussain had been a model citizen the first year of interim probation and had completed more than half of his community service requirement, logging 572.5 hours in 12 months.

Lynch told Hussain at the Aug. 31 hearing that he found the guilty plea deal negotiated under Bartlett to be legally flawed and that he would not enforce it. He gave Hussain and his attorneys 15 minutes to drop the plea deal or he would sentence Hussain then and there to prison. Hussain disavowed the deal and is now scheduled to go to trial May 1. As per his 2019 indictment, Hussain is not only facing 20 counts of criminally negligent homicide but also 20 counts of second-degree manslaughter, which has a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison.

Hussain’s legal team argues that when Hussain completed his first year of interim probation and the community service he is entitled to the “specific performance” of the deal, meaning in fact the court must adhere to the contract Hussain and the DA agreed to in 2021 — since Hussain adhered to the requirements of the deal and gave up a year of his life under the assumption the court would keep up its end of the bargain.

“In fact, (Lynch) has yet to explain how (the court) could do otherwise, as the petitioner cannot get back those 572½ hours of his life or the labor he performed during it,” Hussain’s legal team wrote in its Jan. 30 briefs. “Indeed, such community service was performed … amounting to free labor for an average of nearly seven hours per day for the equivalent of more than four months of regular employment.”

As a result, Hussain is “entitled to the benefit of the plea agreement,” his attorneys wrote.

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