N, Va. (WJLA) – They are the words that she wrote, but as her attorney read them outside the Arlington County Courthouse, 24-year-old Chowdhury Saqlain’s mother could not hold back tears.
“His future was stolen from him,” read attorney David Haynes. “He will have no more birthdays. He will always be 24 years old. Forever young. Forever loved. Forever lost.”
Saqlain was lost in a crash Jan. 24, 2014 at the intersection of Lee Highway and Fort Myer Drive in Rosslyn.
A George Mason University graduate about to start PhD studies, Saqlain was driving home from Georgetown when, according to the victim’s attorneys, 24-year-old Aman Lail from Arlington ran through three red lights before slamming his Jeep into Saqlain’s car, killing him.
But before Lail ran those red lights, prosecuting attorneys claimed during sentencing Friday, that he was “already a killer behind the wheel.” Lail had close to three dozen charges in three years, including a previous DWI, reckless driving, hitting speeds up to 90 miles per hour, and culminating with the deadly crash, where his blood alcohol level was almost 2.5 times the legal limit.
In sentencing Lail to 20 years in prison with nine years suspended, the maximum allowed by law in this case, the Arlington County judge called Lail’s actions “an appalling demonstration of arrogance,” adding “she’s stunned it took this long for something to happen to someone” and “an absolute shame.”
“It’s hard to fathom why this man was allowed to drive on the streets of our county,” said Haynes.
Saqlain’s family wants to send a loud message to those who choose to drive drunk. They filed a multi-million-dollar civil lawsuit against Lail on Friday. They and Mothers Against Drunk Driving Virginia are also calling for a liquor liability law.
“So that we have responsibility for bars and restaurants who serve obviously intoxicated patrons, which Mr. Lail was, and had they not done so, this incident would’ve never occurred,” said Haynes, surrounded by more than a dozen members of Saqlain’s family.
According to prosecuting attorneys, Lail had five vodka drinks and two tequila shots at a Fairfax restaurant before he got behind the wheel. But patrons at Baladna’s Hookah Bar argued that bars shouldn’t be blamed.
“It’s your night, you are going out to enjoy it, you should find your ride home,” said Ray Palani.
Her friend, Rodman Mahmoudi, agreed: “It’s not like the bar is handing you drinks telling you to drink it; it’s the individual’s choice.”
In this case, one individual’s choice meant another no longer has one. Read more: