TURTLE BAY — A judge Friday acquitted a former Department of Buildings worker charged with lying about inspecting a crane that toppled in Turtle Bay in 2008, killing seven people and injuring two dozen others.
Edward Marquette, 51, was found not guilty on all charges relating to the 2008 accident. But the judge did find Marquette guilty on multiple counts of falsifying business records, offering a false instrument for filing and official misconduct for lying about conducting unrelated inspections that he never completed.
Marquette, who waved the right to a jury trial, is now facing up to four years in prison.
Andrew Freifeld, Marquette’s attorney, said the verdict is “in part a vindication,” absolving the former inspector of playing a role in the deadly accident that also toppled a building.
But he was disappointed his client was convicted on multiple other counts, which could mean jail time.
“We’re definitely going to appeal,” Freifeld told reporters after the verdict. “That will be done before sentencing.”
In issuing his verdict, Judge Thomas Farber said he had determined that Marquette made a habit of lying about inspecting cranes during his time with the Buildings Department.
“This was not just an occasional errand run here or there but really part of a pattern of practice for the defendant to represent that he was in places that he was supposed to be when in fact he was nowhere near there,” Farber said as he read his verdict.
The crane in a construction site at 303 E. 51st St., near the corner of Second Avenue, came tumbling down on March 15, 2008, killing six construction workers and one tourist from Florida. Residents had been concerned about the crane's safety prior to the incident. To this day, the site remains an empty lot.
William Rapetti, the rigger responsible for the crane that collapsed in the accident, was charged in 2010 with manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide and reckless endangerment. He was ultimately acquitted on all charges, although his license to operate cranes has reportedly been stripped.
Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance released a statement after the verdict thanking Farber and chastising Marquette for putting “the safety of New Yorkers at risk.”
“Inspecting cranes is not an area where anyone can afford to cut corners,” Vance said in a statement. “There’s no way of knowing if any of the six cranes the defendant claimed to have inspected were safe because he never actually inspected them.”
“There are lifesaving reasons why the Department of Buildings has protocols and a set of standards in place for crane inspectors,” he added.
Marquette is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 1.