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Experts: Pool case won't be an easy one

By Martin B. Cassidy
Staff Writer
Stamford Advocate

Article Launched:07/23/2008 02:56:53 AM EDT

A manslaughter charge such as that brought against the owner of a Stamford company, which built a pool in which a 6-year-old died, can be difficult to prosecute successfully, lawyers and academics said yesterday.Even if Shoreline Pools failed to install safeguard devices required by state building codes, it will be difficult to prove David Lionetti, its president, was directly responsible and recklessly caused Zachary Archer Cohn's drowning death, said Michael Sherman, a Stamford-based criminal attorney.

"I think the state has a tough road to follow in convincing a jury that bad work or some type of negligent installation amounts to two notches less than murder," Sherman said. "They'll need a smoking gun or some other indication of obvious disregard for safety that rises to the level of the crime."

Greenwich police on Monday charged Lionetti with second-degree
manslaughter in the death of Zachary, who drowned last July 28 when his arm became stuck in the intake valve that circulated water in and out of the pool at his Taconic Road home, according to authorities. Shoreline Pools built the pool in 2005, according to town records. The protective grate for the drain was found at the bottom of the pool, police have said.

Prosecutors said Lionetti's company didn't install a safety vacuum release system, a device that would have shut off suction to the valve in which Zachary's arm got stuck, and didn't install a dual drain system in the pool, which would have lessened the dangerous suction of the drain.Lionetti plans to plead not guilty, according to Richard Meehan, his Bridgeport-based attorney. Deaths and injuries because of drain entrapment are tragic but rare, as reported in the United States, Meehan said.

"With the number of pools in this country, the number of entrapment deaths that have occurred is an infinitesimal fraction," Meehan said. "Not to minimize it, but I think this is the first instance where a pool company executive has been charged with homicide over an allegation arising from building code violations."

Article Continued more

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