Lawyers for embattled New York crane rental executive James Lomma used their closing arguments on April 19 to poke holes in the “morality play” they claim prosecutors presented of their client—as a man whose greed and carelessness led to the deaths of two construction workers, crane operator Donald C. Leo and sewer worker Ramadan Kurtaj, in a 2008 Manhattan crane collapse.
Prosecutors will make their last arguments in Lomma's criminal case in the late afternoon on April 20, at which time Manhattan Criminal Court Judge Daniel Conviser will decide the case without a jury, upon the defense’s request.
Lomma, CEO of two city-based crane rental firms that also are defendants in the case, is accused of multiple counts of negligent homicide and other charges related to the collapse of the Kodiak crane at a high-rise construction site.
Throughout the trial, prosecutors argued that Lomma employee Tibor Varganyi, ineptly handled the replacement of the crane’s turntable with a part from the Chinese manufacturer RTR to save time and money. They claimed that the failure of the replacement part caused the crane’s collapse, and that Lomma tried to hide that fact by trying to corrupt a public official.
Lomma’s attorney, Paul Shechtman, said that this picture of his client does not measure up to reality. “I would suggest it was a nice morality play, but it was not the case,” he said.
The first company that Lomma approached to replace the cracked turntable, Rotec Industries Inc., Hampshire, Ill., cited a two-year wait time for a replacement, which allegedly would have cut into revenue generated by $50,000-per-month crane rentals. Arguing that Rotec was tied up with military contracts at the time, Shechtman defended his client’s decision not to wait. “That’s a long delay for any businessman,” he said.
The second firm approached, Ohio-based Avon Bearings Corp., a unit of Kaydon Corp., could speed the delivery to 28 weeks at the earliest for $120,000, according to evidence displayed by prosecutors. Shechtman rejected the prosecution’s suggestions that Lomma ultimately tapped Chinese manufacturer RTR to do the job faster and cheaper.
“We know that RTR is in China, but that’s hardly a red flag,” he said, adding that the company met with the industry standards for ISO-9001 certification.
Prosecutors submitted emails between Varganyi and RTR representative Joyce Wang as evidence that the company was not qualified for the job. Wang wrote, in broken English, “we are afraid the weld technic [sic] we had [sic] is not good… [a]nd honest speaking we dont have confidence on this welding.”
Prosecutors criticized Lomma’s decision to have Varganyi send RTR drawings of what the company wanted, with the employee's lack of engineering experience, education and tools, but Shechtman said that the drawings Varganyi sent were sound.