Driver in Pit Incident Sentenced to Prison

Mohammed Taheri-Azar ’05 has been sentenced to between 26 and 33 years in prison for driving an SUV into a crowd of people at the Pit in March 2006. He pleaded guilty to nine counts of attempted first-degree murder in the incident in which nine people were injured, none seriously.

Offered the chance to speak at his sentencing, Taheri-Azar declined, according to The News & Observer of Raleigh. The paper said his attorney argued for a sentence of about 20 years, denied by Orange Superior Court Judge Carl Fox ’75.

The plea was part of a bargain in which nine counts of aggravated assault were dropped, the paper said.

Shortly before he entered the plea, the newspaper reported that Taheri-Azar had been released from Dorothea Dix Hospital, a mental health hospital, and was moved to Central Prison in Raleigh.

Taheri-Azar previously tried to dismiss his court-appointed attorney and go without legal representation, although he said that he had no legal training and that he did not plan to cross-examine witnesses. He later withdrew the request to represent himself, and he sent a letter to The N&O saying that he was prepared to spend the rest of his life in jail. “If Allah wills, I will plead guilty to all 18 charges currently against me and I expect a life term in prison,” the newspaper quoted from the letter.

Taheri-Azar said at one point that he acted to avenge the deaths of Muslims around the world. He has said that he did not allow members of his family to visit him in prison.

Questions arose during an earlier pretrial hearing concerning his mental stability. He was given psychological treatment at Central Prison.

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