A somber Jojo John appeared in Rockland County Court
Wednesday morning for arraignment on an 18-count indictment in connection with
the July 26th boating accident that killed two of his friends. His
attorney David Narain pleaded not guilty on all counts. John’s family members
and supporters shared the packed courtroom with media while he stood at the
defense table surrounded by his three attorneys.
Narain waived formal reading of the indictment, which included felony counts of Vehicular Manslaughter, Manslaughter and Criminally Negligent Homicide in the deaths of bride-to-be Lindsey Stewart and her fiancé’s best man Mark Lennon.
Assistant District Attorney Stephen Moore asked for $50,000 bail to be set based on the severity of the crime that included two deaths and three injuries, a prior criminal history, John’s blood alcohol level and statements he made to emergency responders.
Moore said John, 35, told emergency personnel that it was his fault and he had been drinking all day. Narain said it was the first he heard of those comments and asked for John to be released on his own recognizance. The attorney stated John was not a flight risk and has the support of his family, the Indian community and is gainfully employed. Narain said John was seriously injured in the accident and suffered a fractured skull, fractured spine, facial fractures and body lacerations that require physical therapy and visits to a neurosurgeon.
“I submit to the court he is not a flight risk,” said Narain, who said he was surprised by the district attorney’s request for bail.
“We have physical evidence to show our client was not the true cause of the accident,” he said.
Narain said their accident investigation has determined the barges used for the construction of the new Tappan Zee Bridge were at fault.
“The cause of this accident was not intoxication or impairment. The cause of this accident was a lack of lighting on those barges in the Hudson River. These barges were placed in the Hudson River in a high traffic area without any concern for the safety of recreational boaters in the area. Once they were placed there people made formal complaints to various different entities explaining the dangers of these barges. Our investigation has revealed that no corrective measures were ever taken until after this accident took place.”
Judge William Kelly set bail at $50,000 bond or $25,000 cash. He scheduled future court dates of January 3, 2014 for determination of readiness, January 10 as the deadline to file motions and January 24 for the responses from the district attorney’s office.
Moore said John’s blood alcohol level was .15, nearly twice the legal limit, and he had traces of cocaine in his system, results which Narain said they would challenge.
“The district attorney’s office has disclosed alleged toxicology results of our client Mr. John,” said Narain. “Ethical rules prevent us from commenting on those results but we can tell you that they will be disputed in court on various different grounds.”
He requested that people with information about the case contact the defense at team at email@example.com. An online defense fund has been started for John. So far $12,900 of the $50,000 goal has been donated since August 13.
After the arraignment, Narain said they are looking forward to the case moving forward.
“Our goal is very simple to have a trial with a fair and impartial jury who will hear and see all the evidence and make a determination on what caused that accident,” he said. “That’s what Lindsey Stewart, Mark Lennon and their families deserve. It’s what those victims on that boat who were injured deserve.”
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