Saturday, November 15, 2003

Spokane

Judge doubles jail time in fatal crash
Al-Jazairy sentenced to 81 months for vehicular homicide

Kevin Blocker
Staff writer

photo
Al-Jazairy

Calling the defendant's actions "foolish, stupid and unnecessary," a Spokane judge nearly doubled the standard-range sentence for Abdulwahab Al-Jazairy for causing an automobile crash that killed a 15-year-old girl.

Superior Court Judge Sam Cozza sentenced Al-Jazairy to six years and nine months in prison for the July 2, 2002, collision in north Spokane.

"It did not have to happen," Cozza told Al-Jazairy.

Vehicular homicide in Washington state carries a standard sentencing range of 31 to 41 months. By granting the exceptional sentence prosecutors sought, Cozza nearly doubled the prison term to 81 months.

"This was a crime of arrogance and stupidity," Deputy Prosecutor Larry Steinmetz said.

Spokane County prosecutors alleged Al-Jazairy, 22, showed extreme indifference when he drove a car at 80 mph through a red light at the intersection of Francis Avenue and Monroe Street.

He collided with a pickup driven by Harry Parris. The cra
sh ejected Parris' daughter, Tesia, from the truck, killing her.

Harry Parris said the length of Al-Jazairy's sentence never mattered to him.

"As a family we have never had any feelings about sentencing itself," Parris said. "There's no amount of time that will bring our daughter back."

In a rare sight in a courtroom, at the conclusion of the hearing, Tesia's and Abdulwahab's parents embraced and shook hands.

"This man (Harry Parris) has been very kind each time we have met," Al-Jazairy's father, Mohammed Nadir Al-Jazairy, told Cozza during sentencing. "He still has strong faith in God."

Cozza also praised the Parris family.

"In 22 years of law this is perhaps the most tragic and sad case I've ever been affiliated with," Cozza said. "The Parrises have conducted themselves in an exemplary manner; it's remarkable that they could adopt that posture.

"It's a tribute to them and their daughter," Cozza said.

For his part, Al-Jazairy apologized to the Parrises, his family and prosecutors.

"I'm truly very sorry," Al-Jazairy reiterated to the Parrises on his way out the courtroom in handcuffs.

During last month's trial, defense attorney Mark Vovos told jurors that the 1993 Mitsubishi 3000 GT Al-Jazairy was driving had been recalled because of brake problems.

The mechanical problem, combined with the fact that Al-Jazairy borrowed the car from a friend and had only been driving it for two days, contributed to his erratic driving, Vovos said at trial.

The jury convicted Al-Jazairy for one count of vehicular homicide and vehicular assault, but couldn't decide on the more serious charge of first-degree murder. The murder charge carried a possible 20- to 26-year sentence.


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