A former Long Island Rail Road signalman who a prosecutor said “endangered passengers” has been indicted for allegedly lying about inspecting a rail bond on tracks that were the site of a 2019 Memorial Day train derailment, federal prosecutors said.
Stuart Conklin, 64, a former Ronkonkoma resident who now lives in Magnolia, Texas, was indicted on a single federal charge of making a false entry in a report, according to the indictment.
Prosecutors said the May 25, 2019, crash of westbound and eastbound trains and subsequent derailment in Speonk were caused by a broken rail bond that Conklin had falsely stated he had inspected a month prior to the crash. Conklin was arrested and charged with the same offense in a criminal complaint in 2021; he was not charged with causing the crash.
During a brief appearance Friday that was conducted virtually before U.S. District Judge Joanna Seybert, Conklin entered a not guilty plea to the indictment and his earlier bail of a $25,000 bond was continued.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Turner Buford, who is prosecuting the case, told the judge that he and Conklin’s defense counsel were engaged in plea negotiations.
Conklin’s defense attorney, Anthony LaPinta, said in a statement after the proceeding: “We have conducted our own extensive investigation into these allegations and continue to maintain that Mr. Conklin did not commit any crime as a track inspector. We are very troubled by the LIRR’s conclusion that Mr. Conklin is responsible for the 2019 Speonk derailment. It is yet another example of the LIRR playing the blame game and failing to own up to its own organizational dysfunction.”
Prosecutors have said LIRR video footage from near the broken rail bond shows Conklin was not in the area on April 26, 2019 – the day he claimed in a required report that he had performed the inspection. A rail bond is "a jumper around a joint in the rails of a track to insure continuity of conductivity for signal currents,” according to the criminal complaint.
No one was injured in the 3 a.m. Saturday crash. Thirty passengers from the eastbound train were evacuated; the westbound train had no passengers. The collision ripped up hundreds of feet of track and service wasn’t restored until the following Monday, prosecutors said.