For the first time in industry history, a builder has been arrested and faces criminal charges for causing an entrapment death.
David Lionetti, president of Shoreline Pools in Stamford, Conn., was charged with second-degree man-slaughter in the 2007 death of Zachary Cohn, the 6-year-old son of a prominent hedge-fund manager.
“David Lionetti is shocked to be personally charged with manslaughter,” said his attorney, Richard Meehan Jr. of the Bridgeport, Conn., law firm Meehan Meehan & Gavin. “He’s the president of a company that employs well over 300 people and has built thousands of pools.”
Lionetti, 53, was immediately released on $25,000 bail. He was scheduled to appear in court July 28 and faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison. He will plead not guilty, according to his attorney.
Zachary died July 28, 2007, at his Greenwich, Conn., home when his arm became trapped in a wall drain leading from the pool to a waterfeature pump. The incident received national coverage and helped prompt the U.S. Congress to pass the first-ever federal Pool & Spa Safety Act.
“Nothing will bring our son back, but we hope this prosecution will help prevent another horrific incident like this from happening to someone else,” parents Brian and Karen Cohn said in a statement. “Those who knowingly violate pool safety codes designed to protect children should be held accountable for their actions.”
The Cohns’ pool allegedly was not equipped with dual drains or SVRS devices, making it out of compliance with Connecticut building code requirements.
The prosecutor, State Attorney David Cohen, charged that in constructing the vessel, Shoreline Pools went beyond negligence into the category of recklessness.
“The difference between criminal negligence and manslaughter in the second degree … is what we call the specific intent of the actor,” he stated. “Reckless conduct basically involves perceiving a known risk and ignoring that known risk.”
But Meehan said the “risk” should have been seen by many. The Cohns’ pool was designed by an outside engineer and approved by the Greenwich building inspector, he said. Meehan added that the installation met several inspections throughout construction and received a Certificate of Occupancy, indicating it was suitable for use.
“[At] no step along the way did any of those individuals, who are now defendants in [a] civil case, indicate that there was anything out of keeping with regulations,” he said.
In an odd turn of events, three days before the arrest, a warehouse at Lionetti’s company burned to the ground. The cause for the late-night fire, which destroyed the building, its contents and dozens of trucks, has not been determined.
“Shoreline Pools is still operational,” Meehan said. “There’s been no interruption in their installation or service work. It’s just an unfortunate piece of serendipity that occurred within 72 hours of the arrest warrant being served.”
The Stamford fire marshal would not comment, saying the incident was still under investigation.
Shoreline Pools was founded by the Lionetti family in 1968.