A Ladera Ranch woman whose son
earlier this year killed three people before committing suicide only cared about herself
and her car following a hit-and-run crash
that seriously injured a 4-year-old girl and two others in Irvine two years ago, a prosecutor told jurors today.
But Sarwat Yasmine Syed's attorney told jurors that his client is innocent and thought that she was the victim of a hit-and-run.
Syed, 43, faces a maximum of four years behind bars if convicted of felony hit-and-run counts stemming from the June 20, 2011, collision on the San Diego (405) Freeway in Irvine.
Deputy District Attorney Patrick Moss said Syed was northbound on the 405 near Irvine Center Drive when she cut off a vehicle and then lost control of her 2011 Yukon Denali while swerving and making “what appears to be like a right-hand turn” before broadsiding a 1992 Honda Accord.
The Honda went “flying off the road ... ending up in a concrete culvert,” according to the prosecutor, who said a 4-year-old girl riding in the Accord sustained multiple facial fractures and her “lower lip was separated from her jaw.”
The 41-year-old driver -- who was taking the children home to Huntington Beach after a visit to Pretend City in Irvine -- suffered broken ribs and needed “rods and screws,” and her then-9-year-old son sustained a fractured collar bone, the prosecutor said.
According to Moss, the defendant told investigators that she drove about a half-mile from the collision scene and pulled over for about 10 minutes, then got off the freeway and stopped at a nearby gas station, where she remained for about two hours.
Instead of calling police, Syed contacted her insurance company to get her vehicle fixed within hours of the crash, Moss said.
“All she thought about was her car and herself,” he said. “She knew it was likely somebody could be injured, but she didn't do anything but help herself.”
Two witnesses are expected to testify, including a woman who said she followed Syed's vehicle and got a partial license plate number, which led to the defendant's arrest about a month later, Moss said.
Syed's attorney said his client was driving to her job at Bloomingdale's, and was 30 minutes early so had no reason to rush.
“Not only is Ms. Syed not guilty, she's absolutely innocent,” defense attorney Vincent LaBarbera Jr. said. “She couldn't have acted more reasonably.”
The defense attorney said the evidence will show the other woman was driving “erratically, swerving.” The Accord “clipped” the rear of the SUV as the defendant was attempting to pass by, causing the Honda's driver to lose control and crash, he alleged.
“She's (Syed) absolutely not responsible for any of this,” LaBarbera said.
He told jurors that it doesn't make sense that someone with insurance would flee the scene of a collision.
“There would be no motive to flee,” he said.
The two witnesses were too far away to see the initial collision, according to LaBarbera. He added that his client “didn't have the opportunity to see what happened behind her” and thought she was the victim of a hit-and-run.
“She called the insurance company and said she believed she was the victim of a hit-and-run,” he said.
Prosecutors filed charges because “this beautiful young girl is broken and injured and somebody has to pay the price,” LaBarbera said.
Police said Syed's 20-year-old son 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.
Ali Syed killed himself with a shotgun his father bought for him as police were closing in on him in Villa Park.
—City News Service
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