Mother of Maine Marine killed in limo crash fears justice won’t be served in criminal case

The mother of a Marine from Maine who was killed in one of the deadliest transportation accidents in U.S. history fears her family won’t get justice. Her son, Michael Ukaj, is one of the 20 people killed in an October 2018 limousine crash in the small upstate New York town of Schoharie. Mary Ashton, of Winterport, expects a plea deal for the defendant in this case and she’s not happy about it. Ashton shared a memo exclusively with WMTW News 8, which was sent to her by New York State Police Crime Victim Specialists assigned to the case, which recaps a meeting with the Schoharie County District Attorney, shows where this case is headed. Mary Ashton said she’s more interested in justice than a settlement. “Money is not going to bring my baby back. Whoever, whatever and however many entities caused my son’s death needs to be brought to justice,” said Mary Ashton. New York State Police said the limo, which failed to stop at an intersection and crashed near a country store, failed an inspection weeks before and the state’s Department of Transportation ordered it off the road. Nauman Hussain, the operator of Prestige Limousine, was indicted last year on 20 counts each on charges of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide. Mary Ashton and her husband Kyle Ashton want him prosecuted for each one of those charges. “Michael deserves justice for everything that has happened,” Mary Ashton said. The memo from State Police victim impact specialists details a conference call between victims’ families and Schoharie County District Attorney Susan Mallery. It says the judge may order a “pre-plea investigation” and asks families to submit victim impact statements. The memo says, “a Pre-Plea Investigation does not mean that a plea is going to happen.” But Ashton says that’s not what Mallery told her. “I said I want a yes or no answer, ‘are you offering a plea deal’ and she said, ‘yes,” Mary Ashton said. Ashton’s attorney Brian Premo says the Ashtons were not properly informed. “She was not properly informed and now she has reason to believe that she was being misinformed and that there is, in fact, a negotiated deal or there was in the works a process to negotiate a deal without informing her as to exactly what was happening,” said Premo. The memo also states, in part, “More time that passes, the criminal case does not get better. One argument that defense is going to make is DOT did not cite break issues on 9/4, so how could he know. Several arguments the defense can try to create reasonable doubt over.” This is in reference to the limo being placed out of service for mechanical issues. Mary Ashton said after expressing her concerns over the direction of the case, victim specialists called and said the DA’s office is trying to get a plea deal so civil cases can move forward. But the only thing that will bring her family peace is if the person she considers responsible is held fully accountable. WMTW News 8 reached out to Schoharie County District Attorney Susan Mallery for comment several times but did not hear back.

The mother of a Marine from Maine who was killed in one of the deadliest transportation accidents in U.S. history fears her family won’t get justice.

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Her son, Michael Ukaj, is one of the 20 people killed in an October 2018 limousine crash in the small upstate New York town of Schoharie.

Mary Ashton, of Winterport, expects a plea deal for the defendant in this case and she’s not happy about it.

Ashton shared a memo exclusively with WMTW News 8, which was sent to her by New York State Police Crime Victim Specialists assigned to the case, which recaps a meeting with the Schoharie County District Attorney, shows where this case is headed.

Mary Ashton said she’s more interested in justice than a settlement.

“Money is not going to bring my baby back. Whoever, whatever and however many entities caused my son’s death needs to be brought to justice,” said Mary Ashton.

New York State Police said the limo, which failed to stop at an intersection and crashed near a country store, failed an inspection weeks before and the state’s Department of Transportation ordered it off the road.

Nauman Hussain, the operator of Prestige Limousine, was indicted last year on 20 counts each on charges of manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide.

Mary Ashton and her husband Kyle Ashton want him prosecuted for each one of those charges.

“Michael deserves justice for everything that has happened,” Mary Ashton said.

The memo from State Police victim impact specialists details a conference call between victims’ families and Schoharie County District Attorney Susan Mallery. It says the judge may order a “pre-plea investigation” and asks families to submit victim impact statements.

The memo says, “a Pre-Plea Investigation does not mean that a plea is going to happen.” But Ashton says that’s not what Mallery told her.

“I said I want a yes or no answer, ‘are you offering a plea deal’ and she said, ‘yes,” Mary Ashton said.

Ashton’s attorney Brian Premo says the Ashtons were not properly informed.

“She was not properly informed and now she has reason to believe that she was being misinformed and that there is, in fact, a negotiated deal or there was in the works a process to negotiate a deal without informing her as to exactly what was happening,” said Premo.

The memo also states, in part, “More time that passes, the criminal case does not get better. One argument that defense is going to make is DOT did not cite break issues on 9/4, so how could he know. Several arguments the defense can try to create reasonable doubt over.”

This is in reference to the limo being placed out of service for mechanical issues.

Mary Ashton said after expressing her concerns over the direction of the case, victim specialists called and said the DA’s office is trying to get a plea deal so civil cases can move forward. But the only thing that will bring her family peace is if the person she considers responsible is held fully accountable.

WMTW News 8 reached out to Schoharie County District Attorney Susan Mallery for comment several times but did not hear back.