NEW YORK – A former city building department inspector pleaded not guilty Thursday to lying about examining a huge construction crane that collapsed days later, killing seven people.
Edward Marquette entered the plea at his arraignment in state Supreme Court in Manhattan. He was charged with tampering with public records, official misconduct and other counts.
He had been scheduled to inspect the crane, being used to hoist materials at a building site, on March 4. It collapsed 11 days later, but officials said it was unlikely the inspection would have prevented that.
State Supreme Court Justice Marcy Kahn allowed Marquette to remain free and ordered him back in court Aug. 14. Neither he nor his lawyer would comment as they left the courthouse.
Marquette, 47, could face up to seven years in prison if convicted of the top count in his indictment, tampering with public records.
The 19-story crane broke away from an apartment tower under construction, demolishing a town house and damaging several other buildings. Six construction workers, including the crane operator, were killed, along with a tourist visiting the city for St. Patrick's Day.
It was the deadliest in a series of construction accidents that have shaken the city in recent months and spurred calls for tighter regulation. They include a second crane collapse May 30 that killed two workers.
The indictment demonstrates "that there is zero tolerance for city inspectors, or any employees, who compromise public safety by shirking their responsibility and falsifying official records," said Rose Gill Hearn, Department of Investigation commissioner.
Marquette had indicated on a Department of Buildings "Hoist and Rigging Inspectors Route Sheet" that he had inspected the crane when in fact he had not, according to the indictment.
The Manhattan prosecutor's office said the defendant also was responsible for inspecting cranes at other Manhattan sites on Jan. 23 and Jan. 30, when he allegedly prepared false inspection documentation.