Printing company owner in court on manslaughter charges

October 20, 2010 1:26:19 PM PDT
The owner and the manager of a San Francisco printing company where a pregnant employee was killed in a machine accident in 2008 appeared in court this morning on manslaughter charges.

Digital Pre-Press International owner and CEO Sanjay Sakhuja and pressroom manager Alick Yeung are each charged with involuntary manslaughter and violation of a California Occupational Safety and Health Administration code in connection with the Jan. 29, 2008, death of Margarita Mojica. The company is also charged in the case.

Mojica, 26, of Oakland, was crushed to death by a creasing and cutting machine she was preparing for a job.

Prosecutors allege that workers at the company had not been trained to safely operate the machine, and that the machine lacked required safety devices.

District Attorney Kamala Harris released a statement Monday calling the deaths of Mojica and her unborn child "tragedies that never should have occurred."

In court today, the two men agreed to postpone their arraignment on the charges until Oct. 29 in order for Yeung to secure an attorney from the public defender's office.

Sakhuja, 52, of Alameda, and Yeung, 50, of San Francisco, surrendered Tuesday and were still in custody this morning, but have posted $300,000 and $100,000 bail, respectively.

They will be released from jail later today, according to Sakhuja's attorney, Tony Brass.

Outside court, Brass claimed that a criminal prosecution is unnecessary because Mojica's family has already been compensated.

"Obviously this is a tragedy of the greatest proportion," Brass said, "but this case has nothing to do with compensating the victim's family for that tragedy."

Brass called it "a horrible accident" and said Mojica's family has already received a multi-million-dollar settlement from the company's insurers.

"This is about punishing a small businessman," he said.

Sakhuja's "mom-and-pop shop" in Potrero Hill employs about 60 people, Brass said.

Regarding the safety allegations, Brass responded, "What the industry standards were remains a question." He said the last Cal/OSHA inspection of the shop prior to the accident was carried out before the machine that killed Mojica was installed.

The company's insurers inspected the machine after it was installed and "didn't find any problems," Brass said.

Mojica was crushed when the machine, which functioned like "a giant, mechanized clamshell," according to prosecutors, suddenly turned on as she was reaching into it.

Cal/OSHA performed two safety inspections of Digital Pre-Press International in 1999 and 2001 after receiving complaints, Cal/OSHA spokeswoman Krisann Chasarik said.

The inspections resulted in the company being cited for various safety violations, including improper face and eye protection for workers, not following electrical safety requirements, a lack of sufficient safety guardrails, and not having a written program on prevention of workplace injuries, she said.

Following Mojica's death, Cal/OSHA issued 14 citations against the company for safety-related violations related to the machine and training at the company, according to Chasarik.

"They were required to abate the hazards, and they did that," Chasarik said. Monetary penalties from the citations are on hold pending the resolution of criminal proceedings, she said.

In the criminal case, Sakhuja and Yeung could be fined up to $250,000 each and the company up to $1.5 millio


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