TAMPA — A 25-year-old woman was sentenced to five years in prison Thursday after pleading guilty to DUI manslaughter in a 2007 crash that killed a good Samaritan.
Amir Sarhaddi, a 29-year-old father of two, was returning from a date night with his wife at 3 a.m. when he noticed a two-car crash ahead on Interstate 75 — an Infiniti had rear-ended a Jeep. He pulled over to the shoulder of the road to help.
He had started to walk toward the cars when Jessica Paquette crashed into the Infiniti, then veered left, hitting Sarhaddi. According the Florida Highway Patrol, her blood-alcohol level was 0.219 percent. Florida law presumes a driver is impaired at a 0.08 blood-alcohol level.
Sarhaddi's wife, Stacey, saw what happened and rushed to find him, but couldn't. He died at the scene.
Paquette was also sentenced Thursday after pleading guilty to previous child neglect and DUI charges for driving impaired with her baby in the car. She also must serve seven years' probation, lose her driver's license permanently, pay restitution and complete 100 community service hours, some with DUI victims.
Sarhaddi's family gathered in the courtroom to watch. A victim's advocate read a statement written by his mother, Brenda Sarhaddi, as his father, Farid, dabbed at tears.
"We wanted you to know something about our son, Amir," the statement said. "He had a wife, a 9-year-old son and an 11-year-old daughter. He loved to play video games with his son and go fishing with his dad and brother. …
"Amir loved football. He loved the Bucs so much; Cadillac Williams was one of his favorite players. Amir wore his jersey all the time. We knew that Amir would have wanted to be buried in it."
Paquette, 25, cried as her family looked on.
The statement continued.
"I don't think you can ever know what you have taken from us. Amir had a good heart and would have wanted to help someone if he could. I hope while you are in jail you can get some help, so when you get out you will always try to put your children's safety first."
The driver in the Infiniti, James Braley, 38, is also charged with DUI manslaughter, accused of causing the original crash that made Sarhaddi pull over. He is awaiting trial.
Alexandra Zayas can be reached at email@example.com or (813) 226-3354.