Upper East Side Crane Boss Not Guilty in 2008 Collapse

By Ben Fractenberg on April 26, 2012 12:16pm | Updated on April 26, 2012 12:46pm

Upper East Side crane boss James Lomma as the verdict is announced in his Manhattan Supreme Court manslaughter trial, April 26, 2012.
Upper East Side crane boss James Lomma as the verdict is announced in his Manhattan Supreme Court manslaughter trial, April 26, 2012.
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DNAinfo/Paul Lomax

MANHATTAN SUPREME COURT — The head of the company responsible for the fatal 2008 Upper East Side crane collapse was acquitted Thursday of two counts of manslaughter and four other charges stemming from the accident.

James Lomma kept a stoic visage as Supreme Court Justice Daniel Conviser read out his verdict, also clearing Lomma of two counts of criminally negligent homicide as well as reckless endangerment and assault.

The May 2008 collapse at East 91st Street and First Avenue sent crane operator Donald Leo, 30, plunging 140 feet to his death and rained a lethal torrent of debris on sewer worker Ramadan Kutaj, 27, who was working below.

Kurtaj's family was outraged at the verdict.

"This judge took a knife to our family's heart by letting this man walk free," said Xhevahire Sinanaj, Kurtaj's first cousin.

Lomma and his lawyer declined to comment outside court.

The New York City District Attorney's office also expressed displeasure over the outcome, but said they hope the trial would increase crane safety.

“Although we are disappointed with the Judge’s verdict, each case we have brought in this area has put increased scrutiny on the construction industry as a whole, and has had a cascading effect on safety practices," said Cyrus Vance in a statement. "Construction companies must do everything in their power to protect the safety of workers and the thousands of New Yorkers who live near or walk by a construction site every day."

Leo's father, who is also named Donald, said he was in disbelief after the verdict.

"I'm very disappointed right now. I'm really in shock."

Bernadette Panzella, the lawyer for the Leo family, also decried Conviser's decision.

"What this verdict says is that no one is safe in this city," Panzella said.  "This family has lost their son and there is no accountability."

But, she said, Lomma will face justice in an upcoming civil trial.

"We're going to put Mr. Lomma in front of a jury," she said.

 

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