Street racer gets 7 years for paralyzing driver

PASADENA — A 20-year-old Glendale man was sentenced Tuesday to seven years in prison for paralyzing a 38-year-old driver who unwittingly pulled out into a 2009 street race.

Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Teri Schwartz said the prison sentence was appropriate due to the gravity of Rafick Daroosee's injuries and the recklessness in which Aren Aznavoleh drove his car on Glenoaks Boulevard.

"It's obviously such a tragedy that the victim, Mr. Daroosee, was really just at the wrong place at the wrong time," she said.

Aznavoleh was found guilty Dec. 10 of two felony counts of reckless driving and two felony counts of assault with a deadly weapon. Jurors also found him guilty of causing great bodily harm to Daroosee — who was paralyzed as a result of the crash — and his 19-year-old car passenger, Tadeh Haghvirdi, who suffered a broken arm.

Aznavoleh was racing against a white BMW on Glenoaks at 61 mph when he ran through a red light and crashed into Daroosee's Nissan Sentra while he was making a turn at Concord Street.

Through an Armenian interpreter, Aznavoleh testified during the trial that he tried to stop, but faulty brakes on his parents' Nissan Quest caused him to crash into Daroosee's car. He also denied racing the BMW.

Police officials testified that they found nothing wrong with the brakes, and that no skid marks were found to show that he tried to stop.

When given the opportunity to speak at the sentencing, Aznavoleh remained silent. His family and attorney, Vincent Quigg, spoke on his behalf.

Quigg told Schwartz that he might appeal the case.

"He didn't intend to hurt anyone," Quigg said.

But Deputy Dist. Atty. Susan Navas told Schwartz that Aznavoleh has not apologized or shown remorse for Daroosee and his family.

Aznavoleh's actions, she said, demonstrated reckless disregard for people's lives.

"There are consequences to everyone's behavior," Navas added.

Daroosee and his wife eventually obtained their visas and moved from Iran to Glendale, where they had been living for three months until the crash.

"The defendant hit Rafick's car and their lives were shattered," Navas said, reading a statement from Daroosee's wife.

The wife, who was jobless and didn't speak English, was left to care for his medical needs and their 6-year-old son, Navas said. Daroosee can't eat, walk or speak.

Glendale Police Officer Bryan Duncan, who investigated the case, said he was "pleased with the outcome of the sentencing."

"However, the seven years the defendant will serve in state prison will never bring Mr. Daroosee back to his feet and allow him to walk again," Duncan said. "Mr. Daroosee will never be able to speak or recognize his family ever again due to the severe brain damage he suffered from this senseless collision."

One of the racing cars involved in the crash drove through the red light to win the race, he added.

"I implore all residents to speak to their children about the consequences that may come from a senseless act of racing," Duncan said.

A restitution hearing for Daroosee's family was scheduled for March 8.

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