Sunday, May 16, 2010

Acquittal in Brooklyn construction death

From the NY Times:

The owner of a Brooklyn construction site who was charged with manslaughter after a day laborer was killed at his site two years ago was acquitted on all counts on Wednesday.

The owner, William Lattarulo, was charged with several felony counts in June 2008 after the worker, Lauro Ortega, was crushed to death by dirt and debris as he was digging a trench at a site in East New York where Mr. Lattarulo was building a new coin laundry.

The death occurred as the city, in the midst of a construction boom, was still reeling from a series of high-profile crane collapses and construction-related deaths. Manslaughter charges in construction cases are hard to prove, but the Brooklyn district attorney’s office had hoped the charges against Mr. Lattarulo would send a message to other builders that slipshod construction could result in prosecution.

In addition to finding Mr. Lattarulo not guilty on the manslaughter charge, a State Supreme Court jury in Brooklyn acquitted him of criminally negligent homicide and two misdemeanor counts of reckless endangerment after an 11-day trial.

“This was the city’s test case,” said Mr. Lattarulo’s lawyer, Stephen Mahler. “They were going to make a poster boy out of my client for all the building collapses that happen in the city every year.” Mr. Mahler added that his client was “elated and very relieved.”

But Mr. Lattarulo still faces two civil lawsuits: one filed by the victim’s family, and another by a family that lived next door to the site in a house that eventually had to be knocked down, Mr. Mahler said.

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