[119 2nd Ave. as seen last week]
The trial is set to start today (per ABC 7) for Maria Hrynenko and two others for their role in the gas explosion on March 26, 2015, that killed two men, Nicholas Figueroa and Moises Locón, and leveled three buildings — 119, 121 and 123 Second Ave.
The trial could last as long as three months in Manhattan Supreme Court, the Daily News reported last week.
Hrynenko, her son Michael Hrynenko (now deceased), contractor Dilber Kukic and their plumber Anthanasios Ioannidis illegally tampered with the gas line at 121 Second Ave. then failed to warn those in the building before the blast, according to the Manhattan District Attorney.
Charges against Hrynenko, Kukic and Ioannidis include second-degree manslaughter, criminally negligent homicide, reckless endangerment and several counts of assault in connection to more than a dozen injured victims.
As the News reported last week, the defense is expected to argue that tampering was not the root cause of the explosion. "I think the DA is going to try and show that there were all these irregularities regarding the gas piping," said Kukic’s lawyer Marc Agnifilo. "None of that is what caused the gas to leak."
This past March, the fifth defendant, Andrew Trombettas, was sentenced to probation and community service. Trombettas had previously pleaded guilty for his role in rubber-stamping a modification to 121 Second Ave. prior to the explosion. The D.A.'s office charged him with two counts of "Offering a False Instrument for Filing in the First Degree, a class E felony."
Nexus Building Development Group paid $9.15 million for the empty lots at No. 119 and No. 121 that Hrynenko owned. As the top photo shows, workers have been quickly erecting the Morris Adjmi-designed building at 119 Second Ave. (aka 45 E. Seventh St.) — that will feature 21 condo units and ground-floor retail. The new building will include a commemorative plaque that honors Figueroa and Locón.
Updated 8 a.m.
The Times has a trial preview today:
A lawyer for Ms. Hrynenko did not respond to a request for comment.
Ms. Hrynenko did not tell detectives about the illegal gas line, prosecutors said, and she shredded nine garbage bags full of documents pertaining to her real estate business.
But legal experts and defense lawyers say that it is difficult to convince a jury that someone is guilty of manslaughter in cases where slipshod construction work has led to deaths.
Under New York law, prosecutors will have to prove that Ms. Hrynenko, Mr. Kukic and Mr. Ioannidis were aware that they were acting recklessly, and disregarded the potential risk of death to others. Prosecutors would also have to show that the risks were not something that a reasonable person would have ignored.
“Being aware of a substantial risk would seem to be inconsistent with maintaining their property and obtaining tenants, making it challenging to prove that level of reckless intent,” said Kevin McCarthy, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice who previously worked as a federal prosecutor in New Jersey and an assistant district attorney in Manhattan.
Previously on EV Grieve:
Updated: 2nd Ave. explosion — landlord, 3 others charged with 2nd degree manslaughter; showed 'a blatant and callous disregard for human life'
RIP Nicholas Figueroa
RIP Moises Ismael Locón Yac
A family continues to feel the loss on 2nd Avenue
Exclusive: 2nd Avenue explosion sites have a new owner
Dedicating Moises Locón Way and Nicholas Figueroa Way on 2nd Avenue at 7th Street
Jury selection starts for defendants in 2nd Avenue gas explosion that killed 2 men