RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - A former Virginia Commonwealth University student involved in a deadly Driving Under the Influence accident learned his fate in court today.
On Wednesday, Judge Gregory Rupe sentenced 24-year-old Varinder Chahal to five years behind bars, with four years suspended, in the involuntary manslaughter of 19-year-old Carolina Perez. He was also sentenced to 12 months for DUI, with nine months of that sentence suspended.
Varinder Chahal was fined $1,000, will have a suspended license for 12 months following his release and will have to attend and ASAP program and have a DUI Interlock on his car for 12 months.
Chahal stood before the judge and apologized to the victim's family; saying he's sorry for his actions and the pain it has caused.
Chahal took responsibility and said he wishes his former life did not exist.
Police said Chahal was heavily intoxicated, at two times over the legal limit when he ran a red light at Second and Canal streets last February. VCU student Carolina Perez was a passenger in the car that officers said Chahal T-boned. She died at the hospital.
"People make that mistake all the time,” Ed Riley, Defense Attorney, said. “That's one of the difficulties of alcohol.”
“People don't really understand how it [alcohol] affects you,” he added, or “how quickly it affects you.”
"I think that this is one of the most serious crimes that we have to deal with on a day to day basis,” Chris Toepp, the Richmond Assistant Commonwealth's Attorney, said. “This isn't a random act of violence.”
“This is a habitual thing that goes on in our city and really deserves our attention as law enforcement officers in the city.”
In court, Perez's father broke down on the stand, telling the Judge Rupe that the pain of losing his daughter will be forever in his life. He told the judge that so many people in the community looked up to her, as she aspired to become a medical student.
The tragedy was also painful for Chahal's family. His mother pleaded with the judge asking him to have mercy on her son, saying, “Vic is a good person and is remorseful.”
Outside the John Marshall courthouse, neither family has a comment other than they both say they’ve suffered a tremendous loss.
"This is a difficult situation,” Ed Riley, Defense Attorney, said. “It tears at your heart on both sides.”
"He's a good kid. He has a good family. It's just tragic all the way around because, obviously, Ms. Perez is wonderful too. Not only has one life been taken. But another's been ruined,” Riley said.
"I think he is sorry,” said Toepp. “My hope is that he's sorry for them and that sorrow is genuine. Not that he's sorry for himself because he had everything going for him.”
Carolina Perez’s family attorney, Todd Sartwell, sent this statement to CBS 6 following Wednesday’s sentencing:
“Obviously today was an extremely emotional day for the Perez family. Clearly nothing that happened in court will reverse the tragic events that caused the loss of this very smart and caring person who meant so much to so many. While the sentence delivered was less than expected, they hope that people will take notice of this tragedy and make better choices than the defendant.”
Sartwell tells CBS 6, Perez’s family plan to file a civil suit.