From the NY Times:
A Bronx judge on Tuesday overturned the convictions of the owner and former owner of a building where two firefighters leapt to their deaths from a fourth-floor window to escape advancing flames.
A jury convicted the defendants of criminally negligent homicide and reckless endangerment a year ago; prosecutors had argued that they knew about the illegal partitions that had turned the apartment building into a dangerous maze that helped disorient the firefighters as the flames quickly spread.
But Justice Margaret L. Clancy of State Supreme Court took the unusual step on Tuesday of overturning the verdict because, she said, prosecutors had failed to prove that the defendants — the company that owned the building, and Cesar Rios, its former owner — knew about the partitions.
“An individual or entity cannot be convicted of a crime without evidence of actual knowledge,” Justice Clancy said.
A spokesman for the Bronx district attorney’s office said prosecutors were deciding whether to appeal the decision.
Salvatore J. Cassano, the fire commissioner, said in a statement: “Today’s decision hopefully does not send the wrong message to those who seek to profit by creating illegal occupancies. The fact is, people continue to die in fires because of illegally constructed partitions that block egress.”