RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - The Virginia Commonwealth University student accused in a deadly drunk driving crash last month that left another college student dead, was back in court Thursday morning.
Varinder Chahal, 23, was indicted on a new charge of aggravated involuntary manslaughter.
Originally the VCU student was charged with driving under the influence, refusal to submit to a blood or breath test and felony manslaughter, but the prosecutors went before a General District judge requesting a null process for the three original offenses. The charges have been set aside, but could be re-introduced later.
Chief Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Tracy Thorne-Begland said instead the state is seeking the new charge which carries a maximum penalty of 20 years behind bars if convicted.
“It’s a lesson people have heard for decades, you get behind the wheel after drinking and there’s nothing good that can come out of that,” Thorne-Begland said. “People’s lives can be ruined, you can lose your license, you can lose your freedom and there are going to be consequences that can follow you around for the rest of your life.”
Police said on Feb. 22 Chahal ran a red light at high speed and T-boned another vehicle at the intersection of 2nd and Canal Streets. The crash killed Carolina Perez, 19, and left two others injured.
“There are no winners in these types of cases, regardless of how this turns out,” said Defense Attorney Ed Riley. “Whether it’s favorable for Mr. Chahal or not, he has a very strong family and they are supporting him but they certainly don’t enable him. He (Chahal) is a good kid and it’s just been very, very difficult. I know the family feels greatly for the victim in this matter, as does my client. The system has to work its way through.”
Following Thursday’s hearing, Varinder Chahal was temporarily placed in the custody of the Sheriff’s Department as they processed paperwork for the new charge. But once the process is complete Thorne-Begland said he will be re-released on the same $25,000 bond previously posted.