By Cindy Schultz
COBBLESKILL, N.Y. (Reuters) - The operator of a limousine company that owned the vehicle involved in a crash that killed 20 people in upstate New York has received threats since pleading not guilty to criminally negligent homicide, his lawyer told local news media on Thursday.
Nauman Hussain, 28, was charged with one felony count related to the deadliest U.S. transportation accident in nearly a decade. All 20 victims were listed on the charging document.
Hussain was issued written violations by police and the state Department of Transportation that the driver he hired should not have been operating the 2001 Ford Excursion limousine involved in Saturday's crash.
The state ordered the vehicle out of service in September, and it should not have been on the road, New York State Police Superintendent George Beach said on Wednesday.
Hussain's lawyer, Lee Kindlon, told Albany television station WNYT that he and his client had received threatening emails and phone calls, prompting his client to leave his home on Wednesday morning.
"There's this fear that the address that he typically used and the address that his family has used had started to be reported, and he felt as if he could be in danger at that house," Kindlon said.
Hussain was released on $150,000 bail on Wednesday by a court in Cobbleskill, near Albany, the state capital. The judge entered a not guilty plea on his behalf.
The arraignment was held several miles from the crash site in Schoharie, where a candlelight vigil was being held for the victims.
Shahed Hussain, Nauman's father and the owner of Prestige Limousine, was not in the country and more charges were possible, Beach said.
Kindlon said on Tuesday that safety violations issued last month on the limousine involved in the accident were largely minor and had not caused the crash. [nL2N1WP16Y]
The vehicle, carrying 17 people on their way to a birthday party on Saturday, ran a stop sign at a highway intersection in Schoharie, about 40 miles (65 km) west of Albany, police and the National Transportation Safety Board said. [nL2N1WO0AT]
It crashed into an unoccupied parked car and two pedestrians before coming to a halt in a shallow ravine, officials said. The driver, all 17 passengers and the two pedestrians were killed.
(Reporting by Cindy Schultz in Cobleskill, New York; Additional reporting by Gabriella Borter, Peter Szekely and Gina Cherelus in New York; editing by Jonathan Oatis)