A limousine company operator was found guilty of second-degree manslaughter for a 2018 crash in upstate New York that left 20 people dead.
Nauman Hussain was in charge of the day-to-day operations of Prestige Limousine when the company rented the stretch Ford Excursion SUV to a group celebrating a 30th birthday party on Oct. 6, 2018.
The limo was traveling on a downhill stretch of road when it went through an intersection and crashed into a parked Toyota Highlander in Schoharie, a town about 40 miles away from Albany. All 17 passengers, the driver and two pedestrians were killed.
The limo had failed an inspection by the state's Department of Motor Vehicles the month prior to the crash and the driver did not have the appropriate driver’s license to be operating that vehicle, state officials said at the time.
National Transportation Safety Board investigators found in a 2020 report that the vehicle had failed an inspection just over a month before the crash, and that one of the brakes was non-operational at the time of the incident.
Prestige Limousine "knowingly" operated a limousine in "poor mechanical condition" the day of the crash, according to the NTSB. The agency also said the company's maintenance program was not "effective" to ensure passengers' safety.
Hussain pleaded guilty to 20 counts of criminally negligent homicide in 2021. The trial came after a judge threw out a plea deal reached with Schoharie County prosecutors last fall that would have spared him a prison sentence.
Jurors heard six days of witness testimony before prosecutors rested their case on Monday. Prosecutors have argued that Hussain removed an out-of-service sticker from the limo’s windshield prior to the crash, Albany ABC affiliate WTEN reported.
The defense filed a motion seeking to dismiss the charges against Hussain, which the judge denied, saying there is sufficient evidence for the second-degree manslaughter counts, according to WTEN.
The defense did not call any witnesses before resting on Monday.
Jurors deliberated for several hours on Tuesday and Wednesday before reaching their verdict. He was found guilty of all 20 counts of second-degree manslaughter, his top charge in the case.
Gasps and crying could be heard in the courtroom as the verdict was read.
Hussain, who had been out on bail during the trial, was remanded into custody following the verdict. His sentencing hearing has been scheduled for May 31. He faces up to 15 years in prison.
During the trial, defense lawyer Lee Kindlon argued the accident was caused by faulty repair work on the brake system, according to The Associated Press.
"I'm heartbroken," Kindlon told reporters outside the courthouse when asked about the verdict. "Over the course of the past four-and-a-half years, I’ve developed a relationship -- either a close personal relationship with my client, his family, his extended family overseas, but I’ve also existed in an outer layer with all the victims' families."
"Now at the end of this chapter of the case, I’m just heartbroken for everybody involved," he continued.
Kindlon says he plans to appeal the verdict.
Schoharie County District Attorney Susan Mallery, who prosecuted the case, thanked the jury for "listening to the evidence."
“Today is really about the families," Mallery told reporters.
The incident was the deadliest transportation crash in the U.S. since 2009.
In the wake of the incident, then-New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced a ban on stretch limos, among other reforms.
ABC News' Amanda Maile contributed to this report.