Homer farm owner pleads guilty to child labor violations in death of teen worker

The Cortland County Courthouse (New York State Courts photo)

CORTLAND, N.Y. — The owner of a local farm pleaded guilty to child labor law violations Thursday in Cortland County Court in connection with the death of a 14-year-old male teen who was working on the farm.

Luke Park, owner of the Park Family Farm on East River Road in Homer, was arraigned in Cortland County Court Thursday afternoon before Judge Julie Campbell, according to court officials. Park pleaded guilty to endangering the welfare of a child, willful failure to pay a contribution to the New York State Unemployment Insurance Fund, and prohibited employment of a minor.

Park was charged by the New York State Attorney General’s Office with more than a dozen child labor law violations in July 2016, one year after 14-year-old Alex Smith was tragically crushed to death by a piece of heavy farming equipment.

Smith was using the machinery, known as a skid-steer, to prepare bales of hay for cow feed on the farm, according to the attorney general’s office.

According to a felony complaint, Park employed other minors on his dairy farm and required them to work about 60 hours per week, and many of them were paid off-the-books.

Sentencing in the case is scheduled for Jan. 3.