A Ladera Ranch woman whose son went on a rampage and killed three people before committing suicide in February was acquitted Friday of a hit-and-run charge stemming from a crash that seriously injured a 4-year-old girl and two others in Irvine two years ago.
Sarwat Yasmine Syed, 43, sobbed in court when the jury's decision was announced.
Earlier this week, Orange County Superior Court Judge John Conley dismissed a felony count of hit-and-run with permanent injury against Syed because there was no evidence that the 4-year-old suffered permanent injury, Syed's attorney Vincent LaBarbera Jr. said. Jurors Friday rejected a count of hit-and-run with injury.
The charges stemmed from a June 20, 2011, collision on the San Diego (405) Freeway in Irvine.
"She's doing well," said Robert O'Connor, father of the injured girl, Ava O'Connor.
"But we're horrified by what just happened," O'Connor said. "This is a miscarriage of justice."
Ava's mother, Erica, cried outside of the courtroom.
"This is why there are so many hit-and-runs in California, because you can get away with it," Erica O'Connor said. "My daughter almost died."
Annette Argo, who was driving Ava and her son home from Pretend City to Huntington Beach when the collision happened, also criticized the verdict.
"How can a jury have so much evidence" and still acquit the defendant, Argo said. "I don't understand."
Argo said the crash left her in a wheelchair for a year and she still depends on a cane. She has a titanium rod in her leg.
"I'm kind of appalled," said her husband, Donald.
"First of all, our hearts go out to the families of the people hurt," LaBarbera said. "Had my client known, she would have turned around."
Syed, "feels terrible about the people injured in the accident," LaBarbera said.
Syed's family was under stress because of publicity about the collision, LaBarbera said, citing racist comments readers left on newspaper websites with articles about the case.
The defense attorney indicated that stress played a part in the shooting rampage his client's son went on earlier this year.
LaBarbera argued that Syed acted responsibly after the crash, saying the other driver was driving erratically, and his client believed she was the victim of a hit-and-run. She called her insurance company after the crash and said she was a victim of a hit and run, LaBarbera said.
Syed pulled over in a section of the highway where she could not see the carnage behind her, LaBarbera said.
Deputy District Attorney Patrick Moss argued that it didn't matter who caused the crash. Syed had a duty to report the crash to police and exchange information with the other driver, Moss argued.
Moss also doubted Syed's claim that she was unaware the other driver was hurt. One witness, "couldn't understand why anyone wouldn't stop with that kind of impact," Moss argued.
"She never bothered to call 911 or return to the scene. She just left," Moss argued.
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