Reckless driver jailed, to pay $50,000 to victim’s family

A judge on Tuesday made a plea for Par­lia­ment to con­sid­er in­creas­ing the $50,000 cap to com­pen­sate fam­i­lies of ac­ci­dent vic­tims as he sen­tenced a reck­less dri­ver to al­most a year in jail for killing a man in a head-on col­li­sion al­most a decade ago.

Jus­tice Lisa Ram­sumair-Hinds al­so or­dered Ja­son Sama­roo, 40, to pay $50,000 in com­pen­sa­tion to An­tho­ny Nel­son’s fam­i­ly and dis­qual­i­fied him from dri­ving for two years.

In pass­ing sen­tence in the San Fer­nan­do Third As­sizes, the judge said she was acute­ly aware that no sen­tence could ad­e­quate­ly ad­dress the de­pri­va­tion and dev­as­ta­tion to Nel­son’s loved ones.

“No amount of com­pen­sa­tion, no term of im­pris­on­ment, no stern sen­ti­ments can as­suage the trau­ma as­so­ci­at­ed with Nel­son’s death.”

Sama­roo, a fa­ther of two, of Morne Di­a­blo, was found guilty by a ju­ry on March 19.

Nel­son, 29, sit­ting in the front seat of his friend’s car, was killed dur­ing a head-on col­li­sion along the Pe­nal Rock Road.

The State’s case was that Mhi­na Whar­wood, was dri­ving on an “S” cor­ner around 1.30 am on Feb­ru­ary 23, (J’Ou­vert morn­ing) when Sama­roo who was head­ing in the op­po­site di­rec­tion crashed in­to her car. Nel­son was killed while Whar­wood and two oth­er pas­sen­gers were in­jured.

At the pre­vi­ous hear­ing, Sama­roo cried as he begged the judge not to take him away from his wife and two chil­dren, ages 14 and eight. His at­tor­ney Renu­ka Ramb­ha­jan pre­sent­ed 15 tes­ti­mo­ni­als which de­scribed him as a good hus­band and fa­ther and an out­stand­ing mem­ber of his com­mu­ni­ty.

As the judge read the vic­tim im­pact state­ment of Nel­son’s wife, Vi­o­let, she de­scribed their re­la­tion­ship as a trag­ic love sto­ry.

Vi­o­let said she be­came in­volved with Nel­son at age 16; at 20 she gave birth to their first child, but the child died. Their sec­ond child, Ja­cie, was just eight months old when Nel­son died. She lament­ed that their daugh­ter has to grow up with­out know­ing her fa­ther and with­out his love, pro­tec­tion and guid­ance.

“I still can­not deal with the loss of An­tho­ny I just put a smile on my face but I grieve every day,” said Vi­o­lent. She said on a dai­ly ba­sis she has to ex­plain to her daugh­ter “the rea­son she has no fa­ther is be­cause of the reck­less­ness of an­oth­er man.”

In her state­ment, Nel­son el­dest daugh­ter Aleen Ed­wards, 18, (from a pre­vi­ous re­la­tion­ship), who lives with Nel­son’s moth­er said she was just nine years old when her fa­ther died.

Ed­wards said she miss­es her fa­ther and his death left her feel­ing heart­bro­ken, sad and emp­ty. Nel­son’s moth­er Lu­cie Nel­son, in her state­ment, said every day she ex­pe­ri­ences the in­de­scrib­able “pain in my bel­ly” she felt on the day he died.

De­scrib­ing Nel­son, her first-born, as her con­fi­dante, she said, “Some­times I feel like I want to die my­self. Very of­ten I find my­self call­ing out to An­tho­ny think­ing he is still there. I can­not get over the loss. Every time I hear about an ac­ci­dent on the news or see it on tele­vi­sion I re­live the mo­ment I saw my son that night. It’s like liv­ing in a night­mare all the time. All I can say is noth­ing can bring back my son nor take away this emp­ty feel­ing in­side of me or take away the pain I feel every day. Al­so hav­ing to go through these tri­als is like liv­ing that one day every day,” she stat­ed.

The judge found that an ap­pro­pri­ate start­ing point was two years, but re­duced it af­ter con­sid­er­ing the mit­i­gat­ing fac­tors, in­clud­ing his re­morse, good char­ac­ter and the com­pen­sa­tion. He or­dered the pris­on­er to serve 11 months and two weeks in jail.

Sama­roo was giv­en un­til April 2021 to pay $15,000 to Nel­son’s el­dest daugh­ter, $20,000 to his oth­er child and $15,000 to his wife. The judge told Sama­roo that if he pays the full com­pen­sa­tion and at­tends a dan­ger­ous dri­ving course be­fore the ex­pi­ra­tion date of the dri­ving dis­qual­i­fi­ca­tion, he could re­turn to court to have his li­cence re­in­stat­ed.

State at­tor­neys Sta­cy Laloo-Chong and Josanne For­rester pros­e­cut­ed in the case.

- by Sascha Wilson