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Rigging contractor found not guilty in New York crane collapse

By the CNN Wire Staff
  • The trial stemmed from a 2008 crane collapse that killed seven people in New York
  • A judge found a rigging contractor not guilty of 20 counts including manslaughter
  • The defendant says the verdict is "bittersweet ... I lost six good friends"
  • The district attorney says he is "extremely disappointed" in the verdict

New York (CNN) -- A rigging contractor was found not guilty Thursday in a 2008 crane collapse that killed seven people on Manhattan's East Side.

State Supreme Court judge Roger Hayes acquitted William Rapetti, 49, on all 20 counts against him, including seven counts of manslaughter.

David Bookstaver, a spokesman for the New York State Courts, said that it was a bench trial in which there was no jury.

"The judge was the jury and the law doesn't require an explanation of the verdict from the judge anymore than it does in a jury trial," said Bookstaver.

"The defense's contention is that it was the failure of other support systems, the beams and a lack of proper foundation that led the straps to snap," said public relations spokesman Joe O'Donnell on behalf of Rapetti's attorney, Arthur Aidala.

Rapetti, whose company Rapetti Rigging Services was overseeing the crane at a construction site on East 51st Street, was indicted on manslaughter charges in 2009.

The crane, which was more than 20 stories high, came crashing down on March 15, 2008, flattening a four-story townhouse and damaging six other buildings. Seven people were killed and 24 others were injured.

"Today is a bittersweet day for me. It certainly feels good to have had my day in court and to be vindicated," Rapetti said in a statement. "I want to thank Judge Hayes for having the fortitude to stand by what he thought was right and let justice prevail. But I lost six good friends in 2008 and an innocent person lost their life so there is no time to celebrate. I thank God and my family for their support through this ordeal and I am happy that this process is over and hopefully the healing can begin for all involved."

Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus R. Vance Jr. issued a statement saying that he was "extremely disappointed" in the verdict.

"At this time, our thoughts go out to the seven victims' families, whose lives were devastated by this tragic incident," said Vance.

CNN's Vivienne Foley contributed to this article.