Sep 21, 2011 News
The former president of a luxury charter company whose jet barreled off New Jersey’s Teterboro Airport runway in 2005 was sentenced yesterday to 2½ years in prison by a judge who said he did not believe the crash was a result of regulatory violations, according to a story by the online news, northjersey.com.
“I’m just not satisfied from the evidence I heard that the conduct alleged caused the plane to crash,” U.S. District Judge Dennis M Cavanaugh told a packed courtroom in Newark at the sentencing of Guyana-born brothers Michael and Paul Brassington, executives and co-founders of the now-defunct Platinum Jet Management LLC of Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
Ruling that the applicable sentencing guidelines overstated the seriousness of the offence, the judge rejected a range of 97 to 121 months for Michael Brassington and instead gave him 30 months in prison.
Similarly, Cavanaugh ruled the 97- to 121-month range for Paul Brassington was inappropriate and sentenced him to 18 months.
Both men apologized to the judge and the victims of the crash, which injured 14, and maintained they never intended to hurt anyone.
The two brothers were convicted last November by a jury that found they put profits ahead of safety in a scheme to overload jets with cheap fuel.
Michael Brassington, the President, Chief Operating Officer and Chief Pilot, was portrayed by prosecutors as the architect of a scheme to defraud passengers, charter brokers, the Federal Aviation Administration and others by misrepresenting his company’s compliance with safety regulations.
He was found guilty on the most serious charge of endangering the safety of an aircraft in flight. The jury found him guilty on eight additional charges and cleared him on 12 counts of making false statements.
His younger brother, a former Vice President largely responsible for sales and marketing, was found guilty only of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and was acquitted on four other counts.
The charge of endangering the safety of an aircraft in flight related to Michael Brassington’s concealment of dangerous over-fueling and weight distribution practices that caused the jet’s centre of gravity to exceed its forward weight limit for takeoff, contributing to the Feb. 2, 2005, Teterboro crash, according to National Transportation Safety Board investigators.
But Cavanaugh rejected that explanation, saying he agreed with the conclusion of a defence expert who testified that the crash was more likely caused by a mechanical failure.
“I recognize the issue was serious but I don’t find evidence that what they did caused this tragic crash,” the judge said.
The Bombardier Challenger 600 jet ploughed through a steel perimeter fence and struck two cars as it crossed six lanes of Route 46 before crashing into a clothing warehouse and bursting into flames. Both pilots and two car passengers were seriously injured.
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