Construction magnate James Lomma was found not guilty Thursday of manslaughter in the deaths of two workers in the 2008 collapse of his tower crane on Manhattan's Upper East Side.
The verdict by Manhattan Supreme Court Justice Daniel Conviser, based on two months of often complex engineering testimony in a non-jury trial, left family members of both slain men shaking their heads in disgust.
Lomma had faced a maximum of 15 years in prison when sentenced.
To find Lomma, 66, guilty, the judge had to find that he recklessly disregarded the risk of death in sending out to China for a cheap, quick-fix replacement bearing.
The huge ring of metal had been welded together so shabbily, it cracked into two pieces just five weeks after being installed, according to testimony.
Everything above the cracked bearing -- including the crane's cab and its massive boom -- fell 140 feet to earth on East 91st Street. Crane operator Donald Leo, 30, was instantly crushed to death. Construction worker Ramadan Kurtaj, 27, died after five hours in the hospital.
Lomma's crane-rental companies remain a fixture at major construction sites around the city, including at Ground Zero.
District Attorney Cy Vance said the not-guilty verdict won't deter his office from going after construction companies that prosecutors believe are cutting corners at the public's risk.
"Although we are disappointed with the judge's verdict, each case we have brought in this area has put increased scrutiny on the construction industry as a whole, and has had a cascading effect on safety practices," Vance said.