The drunken driver who crashed into an Uber car in October, killing three passengers and injuring the driver before fleeing the scene, was sentenced Friday to 39 years in prison.
Jasen Randhawa, 23, of Mequon pleaded guilty in February to three counts of second-degree reckless homicide and one of reckless injury. Prosecutors dismissed eight related felonies.
The sentencing began Friday morning and continued past 3:30 p.m. before Milwaukee County Circuit Judge Mark Sanders imposed the sentence. In addition to the 39-year-prison term, Sanders ordered that Randhawa remain under state supervision for another 16 years.
Assistant District Attorney Grant Huebner recommended 35 to 40 years in prison, the most he’s sought in a traffic homicide, “because the facts demand it.”
Defense attorney John Schiro stressed his client’s otherwise good character and said that as soon as he learned people had died he decided to turn himself in. Schiro suggested 15 years in prison would be just, and not minimize what happened. Dozens of people from the Sikh community attended in support of the Randhawa family.
Huebner recounted how Randhawa chose to drive his brother’s SUV despite a revoked license for a prior drunken driving violation, speed through two red lights, hit the Uber car at nearly 60 mph, then flee without ever checking on the victims.
And while he fled, Randhawa first claimed he was carjacked, then made up a story about his vehicle being stolen as he picked up food, both discussions captured on video from inside two taxi cabs he took after the crash.
Even after friends convinced him that he had to turn himself in, Randhawa waited until Monday, until he was sober, Huebner said, adding that the surrender and subsequent pleas worked in Randhawa’s favor.
Because of the delay, Randhawa couldn’t be tested for alcohol and was never charged with drunken driving but told a friend right after the crash that he was drunk.
Killed in the crash were Ashley Sawatzke, 30, who grew up in Menomonee Falls, Amy Taylor, 32, and Lindsey Cohen, 35, all friends who lived and worked in Chicago returning to their Third Ward hotel after a night out.
Their Uber driver, Tim Snyder, 41, was seriously injured.
Snyder’s Ford Fusion was southbound on S. 2nd St. when Randhawa, westbound in a Lexus SUV on W. Clybourn St., ran a red light and hit the Uber car about 3 a.m. Oct. 23, a Sunday.
Randhawa showed ‘no decency’
The victims’ relatives spoke of the emotional carnage they continue to suffer.
Jennifer Taylor called her only child “my everything, my reason for living, my world,” and said she still sees a doctor because she breaks out in rashes, twitches and can’t sleep.
Like Taylor, Cindy Sawatzke said she spoke and texted with her daughter daily and now finds it hard to get through a day. She said Randhawa showed “no decency” that night and his actions suggest a sense of entitlement.
Chad Cohen said the cliche, “a parent’s worst nightmare,” doesn’t begin to describe what he went through, from informing his other children, to getting phone calls from reporters, to cleaning out Lindsey’s apartment,
Jessica Cohen, the victim’s identical twin, said she’ll never get over her sister’s death. “I can’t imagine having our birthday every year without her,” she said.
Snyder, the Uber driver, said he only came out of respect for the women’s families. He said his time in the hospital made him hope he will have an impact with the rest of his life, being reminded so dramatically that it can end without warning.
Huebner, the prosecutor, pointed out that Snyder had told police he joined Uber so others wouldn’t drink and drive.
Randhawa’s mother, aunts and a cousin told Sanders how caring and responsible he was growing up, how he studied, went to college and always helped his parents run their gas station.
Randhawa tearfully apologized to all the victims by name. He said every day since the crash, he looks back in shame. He said he knew it was his responsibility to stop and render aid when he would have learned the severe consequences of the crash.
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