SANTA ANA (CBSLA.com) — A woman whose son killed three people during a shooting rampage in February was acquitted Friday of causing a hit-and-run crash that seriously injured a 4-year-old girl and two others in Irvine in 2011.
Sarwat Yasmine Syed, 43, openly sobbed in court when the jury’s decision was read.
Earlier this week, Orange County Superior Court Judge John Conley dismissed a felony count of hit-and-run with permanent injury against Syed — a Ladera Ranch resident — because there was no evidence that the 4-year-old suffered permanent injury, Syed’s attorney Vincent LaBarbera Jr. said.
Jurors today rejected a count of hit-and-run with injury.
The charges stemmed from a June 20, 2011, collision on the San Diego (405) Freeway.
“She’s doing well,” said Robert O’Connor, father of the injured girl, Ava O’Connor.
“But we’re horrified by what just happened,” O’Connor said. “This is a miscarriage of justice.”
Ava’s mother, Erica, also cried upon hearing the verdict.
“This is why there are so many hit-and-runs in California, because you can get away with it,” Erica O’Connor said. “My daughter almost died.”
Hours after the verdict was read, the O’Connor’s spoke to KCAL9’s Melanie Woodrow and still had trouble comprehending what happened in the jury room.
“Ava had her entire face smashed,” said Erica.
Syed’s lawyer insisted his client pulled over as soon as she could so do and waited for ten minutes.
“It’s preposterous what she is saying,” said Robert O’Connor, “We don’t believe it for one second.”
The O’Connor’s told Woodrow they still have faith in the legal system but won’t be able to forgive Syed until she admits what she did.
“In our opinion, she left out little girl in a ditch to die,” said Robert.
Annette Argo, who was driving Ava and her son home from Pretend City to Huntington Beach, also slammed the jury’s decision.
“How can a jury have so much evidence?” and still acquit the defendant, Argo said. “I don’t understand.”
The collision left Argo in a wheelchair for a year and she said she still depends on a cane. She has a titanium rod in her leg.
“I’m kind of appalled,” said her husband, Donald, regarding the verdict.
“First of all, our hearts go out to the families of the people hurt,” LaBarbera said. “Had my client known, she would have turned around.” Syed “feels terrible about the people injured in the accident,” LaBarbera said.
Syed’s lawyer maintains that the stress of the hit-and-run and subsequent arrest played a part in her son’s rampage.
LaBarbera said, citing racist comments readers left on newspaper websites, that Syed’s son snapped.
The attorney also argued that Syed acted responsibly after the crash. He said another driver was driving erratically, and his client believed she was the victim of a hit-and-run. She called her insurance company and reported she was a victim of a hit and run, LaBarbera said.
Syed pulled over but not close enough where she could see the carnage behind her, LaBarbera said.
Deputy District Attorney Patrick Moss argued that it didn’t matter who caused the crash. Syed had a duty to report the crash to law enforcement and exchange information with the other driver, Moss argued.
Moss also dismissed Syed’s claim that she was unaware the other driver was hurt. One witness, “couldn’t understand why anyone wouldn’t stop with that kind of impact,” Moss argued.
“She never bothered to call 911 or return to the scene. She just left,” Moss argued.
Syed’s 20-year-old son, Ali Syed, went on a rampage in February, first killing 20- year-old Courtney Aoki of Buena Park in his Ladera Ranch home and then committing multiple carjackings and shootings in Tustin and Santa Ana that killed two men and seriously injured two others.
Syed killed himself with a shotgun his father bought for him as police were closing in on him in Villa Park.