'Tragedy on Hudson' boat driver Jojo John pleads guilty

Jojo John faces two years in the deaths of Lindsey Stewart and Mark Lennon. (6/9/14)

The driver in the boat crash on the Hudson River that killed two people last year has pleaded guilty.

Jojo John, 36, of Nyack, pleaded guilty to two counts of vehicular manslaughter in the second degree in the deaths of bride-to-be Lindsey Stewart, 30, of Piermont, and her fiancé's best man, Mark Lennon, 30, of Pearl River. The plea deal carries one year behind bars for each count and the years are to be served consecutively in local jail.

Prosecutors say John was under the influence of drugs and alcohol on July 26, 2013 when he slammed a boat into a barge on the Hudson River that was being used for construction on the new Tappan Zee Bridge. The DA's office says John's blood alcohol level was nearly twice the legal limit the night of the crash. John suffered a fractured skull and spine injury in the crash.

John's lawyer David Narain had claimed that his client was safely driving the boat and only crashed into the barge because they weren't lit properly. The U.S. Coast Guard said the barge was properly lit the night of the crash.

In a statement, the families of Lennon and Stewart said they believe that the leniency in John's sentence is due to the evidence against the barge company. "We are extremely saddened to know that even though the Rockland County District Attorney's Office has evidence which proves that the barge companies are at fault because they ignored warnings that due to inadequate lighting this was an accident waiting to happen, it chose to ignore such evidence while only holding one party accountable for their actions."

An attorney for Brian Bond, a surviving victim of the crash, says John's plea has no bearing on his client’s decision to go forward in a negligence lawsuit against the barge operators.

John remains out on bail. Sentencing is scheduled for Sept. 16.

 

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