By Christina Carrega
A heartbroken Queens mother and a Brooklyn judge heeded caution to future offenders who leave any crime scene without reporting that they too should be punished. Saeed Ahmad, who was caught on an infamous cellphone video hailing a cab as his friend died in an inferno, was sentenced to up to 12 years in prison.
“Good Samaritan laws should be given here,” said Rajinder Singh, mother of the late Harleen Grewal, during her extensive victim impact statement in Brooklyn Supreme Court on Wednesday. “Let’s bring this change to our system … you should always stay there and get help — even if you caused it — because one day it could be you.”
Grewal, 25, was left to die inside of Ahmad’s Infiniti G35 on Oct. 13, 2017, after he crashed into the median on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway while trying to dodge another car. Ahmad pleaded guilty in November for getting behind the wheel while intoxicated and with a suspended license before speeding on the roadway with Grewal as the passenger.
Ahmad, 24, instructed the taxi driver to take him to a nearby hospital for treatment for his own wounds and did not call 911 to try and save Grewall — a friend who, Ahmad said in a statement to the judge, “always stood by [his] side.”
“Thank you for whoever it was who filmed that day, you are a Godsend. You left proof of what happened to my dear Harleen,” said Singh as she was comforted by another daughter and Assistant District Attorneys Joseph Mancino and Theresa Shanahan.
Grewal’s charred body was pronounced dead on the scene.
“I couldn’t even hug her or give her a kiss. Flesh of my flesh wasn’t even there. I was scared of my child’s bare bones, her insides were out, the casket was so cold,” said Singh as she wiped away tears. “I wanted to die with her … I had to let go of her remains in order to have her soul at peace.”
Singh read from her written statement about the pain and anguish her family continues to feel without Grewal, their “lioness.”
“Her room, her clothes are still there. We don’t touch it just in case she comes back,” said Singh. “We still fix her a plate for dinner, we change her towel for her and change the water at her nightstand every night.”
Ahmad pleaded guilty to Brooklyn Supreme Court Justice Vincent Del Giudice during his allocution hearing in exchange for a lesser sentence of four to 12 years in prison. He was facing up to 25 years in prison for first-degree manslaughter. His plea bumped the top charge to second-degree manslaughter, which lowers the sentencing guidelines to up to 15 years.
“You got a slap on your wrist,” said Singh. “You better make it good because the justice system can get you from the throat if you disrespect it again.”
Before Justice Del Giudice imposed the promised sentence to Ahmad, he urged Grewal’s family to make a change as he is “trained by the law” in order to help another family who may experience this type of loss.
“I recommend the family to petition the legislature. I can’t change the law, I can only apply it,” said Justice Del Giudice. “My hands are tied.”
Upon Ahmad’s release, Mancino and Shanahan recommended that he participate in Choices and Consequences: An Alcohol and Other Drug Awareness Program — a course within the Department of Probation (DOP). Ahmad will have his license suspended for a year, will have to install an interlock ignition device in his car, serve three years of probation and pay over $2,000 in fines.
“I have to live with this horrific tragedy every day. I hope when I get out, I can help someone at the Choices program so this never happens again,” said Ahmad during his Nov. 27 hearing. “I’m so sorry for what I did. If I could change anything, it would be to change everything I did that day.”
If DOP agrees to the recommended post-release supervised program for Ahmad, he would share his story with youth ages 12 to 18 who have gotten into alcohol- or drug-related trouble, according to the state’s Unified Court System.
“My heart is aching with pain for causing incurable pain to the parents of Harleen,” said Ahmad as he remained handcuff and turned to Grewal’s family who packed the 21st floor courtroom.
“I want to let them know that they raised an amazing and generous woman. She stood by my side, but when she needed me the most I let her down. I let her family and friends down.”