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No Manslaughter Convictions In Deutsche Bank Fire

John Galt Corp. Found Guilty Of Reckless Endangerment
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Deutsche Bank skyscraper (credit: NICHOLAS ROBERTS/AFP/Getty Images)

Deutsche Bank skyscraper (credit: NICHOLAS ROBERTS/AFP/Getty Images)

haskell_feature Peter Haskell
Peter Haskell joined WCBS in 1994. This followed stints at WCTC Radio...
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NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) – A toxin-cleanup director and a company have been acquitted of manslaughter in a blaze that killed two firefighters at a condemned bank tower at Ground Zero.

For Mitchel Alvo, a former contractor facing manslaughter and other charges in the fatal 2007 Deutsche Bank building fire, the bench verdict was a relief. He was found not guilty on all counts.

“I’m glad after a nearly four-year ordeal for myself and my family that’s there’s been a just verdict,” said Alvo. “Now, I’ve got to get on with my life, try to start making a living again.”

It was yet another acquittal for Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance, reports CBS 2’s Marcia Kramer.

Two New York City firefighters, Robert Beddia and Joseph Graffagnino, were killed in the blaze which was caused by a worker’s discarded lit cigarette.

WCBS 880’s Peter Haskell With Reaction From Fallen Firefighter Joseph Graffagnino’s Father

The two were trapped inside and died from smoke inhalation and carbon monoxide poisoning. One hundred firefighters were also hurt.

An investigation revealed poor regulation of the building, which was badly damaged during the September 11th attacks and was also found to have a broken water standpipe used by firefighters.

Last week, two other contractors, Salvatore DePaola and Jeffrey Melofchik, were also cleared in separate trials.

The company Alvo worked for, The John Galt Corp., was also found not guilty on manslaughter charges but found guilty of second-degree reckless endangerment.

“I don’t understand how the corporation can be found liable for a criminal misdemeanor committed by employees while the employees themselves were found not guilty of a misdemeanor,” said the company’s attorney David Wikstrom.

The case is the latest defeat for the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office, which released this statement:

“The investigation and resulting agreements contributed to important reforms at city agencies, including the FDNY – changes that have undoubtedly saved lives. We want to thank judge Uviller for presiding over such a complex and extended case.”

While the attorney for the Galt Corporation said he intends to move forward with plans to have that verdict set aside, he is concerned that effort will impact the company’s ability to get work with the city in the future.

Representatives for the fire union said a new probe should be brought.

“We feel that the people who were prosecuted and brought before the courts were scapegoats, and that the real people who were responsible, their actions have never been examined,” Uniformed Fire Officers Association President Alexander Hagen said.

The unions claim that the Lower Manhattan Development Corporation, which owns the building, was notified 15 days before the fire that the building was an accident waiting to happen, but took no action.

“We feel the LMDC, the owners of the building, were responsible,” Hagen said. “They made the decision that resulted in these wrongful deaths.”

The firefighters said they want prosecutors to examine their charge that the warning about the compromised safety of the Deutsche Bank Building was never taken seriously.

“That warning was ignored. Somebody made a conscious decision to sacrifice safety for expediency,” Hagen said. “That person or people have never been brought to justice.”

What do you think about the verdict? Let us know in our comments section below…

(TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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