See Update No. 3 on Page 2 about the charges against Sarwat Syed being dismissed. Update No. 2 has prosecutors saying she only thought of herself and the defense countering "she's absolutely innocent." Update No. 1 on the next page is about the trial beginning.
ORIGINAL POST, SEPT. 16, 8 A.M.: Trial is scheduled to begin in Santa Ana this morning for Sarwat Yasmine Syed, but not for mothering the young Ladera Ranch man who killed three, injured three more and then took his own life on Feb. 19.
No, Ali Syed's mom is charged with hitting a family of four on June 20, 2011, seriously injuring a 4-year-old girl, and driving away.
Ava O'Connor was being driven back from Pretend City by a friend's mother, whose vehicle was rammed by a GMC Yukon Denali that fled the accident scene along the 405 freeway near Laguna Canyon Road. The girl went on to undergo a nine-hour operation to repair her jaw, upper palate, eye sockets and nose. She later recovered at home with a feeding tube, a tracheotomy and 10 plates in her head.
Syed, who was arrested after the Denali's license plate was linked to an insurance claim filed a day after the crash, pleaded not guilty to two felony hit-and-run charges just a couple weeks after her son went on his rampage.
After leaving a young woman dead in the Syed family home, Ali Syed drove off in a Denali to continue the horrors of one of Orange County's darkest days.
UPDATE NO. 1, SEPT. 17, 10:10 A.M.: Turns out we were off a day; the trial of Sarwat Yasmine Syed was actually to begin this morning in Santa Ana. The 43-year-old is charged with one felony count of hit and run with permanent injury and one felony count of hit and run with injury that, with a conviction, could send her to prison for four years, according to an Orange County District Attorney's office (OCDA) statement.
"Syed is accused of being involved in the collision that spun the victim's vehicle off the road and slamming into a concrete culvert," reads the release. "Immediately after the crash, the defendant is accused of continuing northbound on the freeway for nearly a mile without stopping to check on the victim's vehicle. Syed is accused of driving away from the scene without providing any identification or assistance to the victims."
UPDATE NO. 2, SEPT. 17, 3:40 P.M.: Deputy District Attorney Patrick Moss reportedly said in court today that Sarwat Syed made "what appears to be like a right-hand turn" with her 2011 Yukon Denali before broadsiding a 1992 Honda Accord that went "flying off the road ... ending up in a concrete culvert."
The Honda's 41-year-old driver suffered broken ribs and needed "rods and screws," her then-9-year-old son sustained a fractured collar bone and a 4-year-old girl riding with them sustained multiple facial fractures and her "lower lip was separated from her jaw," Moss tells jurors in a report by City News Service's Paul Anderson.
Syed is accused of driving about a half-mile from the collision scene and pulling over for about 10 minutes, then getting off the freeway and stopping at a nearby gas station, where she remained for about two hours without ever calling police. Instead, she contacted her insurance company to get her vehicle fixed within hours of the crash, Moss alleged.
"All she thought about was her car and herself," he reportedly said. "She knew it was likely somebody could be injured, but she didn't do anything but help herself."
But Vincent LaBarbera Jr., an attorney for the defense, reportedly said, "Not only is Ms. Syed not guilty, she's absolutely innocent. She couldn't have acted more reasonably."
He accused the Accord driver of driving "erratically, swerving" and clipping the rear of the SUV as if trying to pass. Syed, who was driving to work at Bloomingdale's and was early and in no need to speed, is "absolutely not responsible for any of this," LaBarbera reportedly claimed.
He is said to have added Syed had no reason to flee the scene because she had insurance that would have covered the collision. "She called the insurance company and said she believed she was the victim of a hit-and-run," LaBarbera reportedly said.
The prosecution indicated it will put on two witnesses, including a woman who said she followed Syed's vehicle and got a partial license plate number that led to an arrest about a month later. But the defense attorney countered neither witness was close enough to have seen the collision.
LaBarbera reportedly claimed prosecutors filed charges because "this beautiful young girl is broken and injured and somebody has to pay the price."
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UPDATE NO. 3, SEPT. 20, 3:48 P.M.: An Orange County Superior Court jury today acquitted Sarwat Syed.
Judge John Conley, who earlier in the week dismissed a felony count of hit-and-run with permanent injury against the 43-year-old, rejected the hit-and-run with injury charge following the jury's decision in her favor.
Syed sobbed upon learning her fate, City News Service reports.