NY boat crash: Criminal case ends, lawsuits await

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By JIM FITZGERALD

NEW CITY, N.Y. (AP) - The criminal case stemming from a boat ride on the Hudson River that took the lives of a bride-to-be and her fiancé's best man is ending. But the case may persist in civil courtrooms for years.

Jojo John, who was piloting the powerboat that crashed into a barge in July 2013, is expected to be sent to jail Tuesday for two years.

He pleaded guilty in June to vehicular manslaughter and admitted that he was drunk at the time.

John's 19-foot Stingray crashed into a barge that was moored in the Hudson as part of the construction of a new Tappan Zee Bridge, about 30 miles north of Manhattan.

Two 30-year-old friends of John, Lindsey Stewart of Piermont and Mark Lennon of Pearl River, were killed. Stewart was to have been married two weeks later. The groom-to-be, Brian Bond, was injured, as was John.

Prosecutors said the 36-year-old John had nearly twice the legal level of alcohol in his system when the boat crashed. They quoted him as telling first responders, "I've been drinking all day," or words to that effect.

John's lawyer, David Narain, insisted that the crash was caused not by intoxication but by a lack of lighting on the barge. The Coast Guard and the state Thruway Authority, which is building the bridge, said the barge was properly lighted.

Stewart's and Lennon's families have sued several companies involved in the construction, citing poor lighting. But they also sued John, as co-owner of the boat, and said he was careless and negligent. Others who were in the boat also have sued.

John's civil lawyer, James Mercante, said Monday that the end of the criminal case means civil lawyers will get access to the boat and other evidence. A conference in the lawsuits, which have been consolidated in admiralty court, is scheduled for Oct. 27.

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