An attorney was sentenced Friday to four years in prison for a drug-fueled collision that killed a bicyclist in Mission Viejo.
Hasti Fakhrai-Bayrooti, 41, of Rancho Santa Margarita, also pleaded guilty Friday to possessing an anti-anxiety drug while in jail awaiting sentencing.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Greg Jones gave her three years for that offense, to run concurrently with the vehicular manslaughter term.
Fakhrai-Bayrooti made an open plea March 10, meaning there was no guarantee what her punishment would be for vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated. The sentencing range is 16 months to four years in prison.
Fakhrai-Bayrooti was driving south on Santa Margarita Parkway about 6:45 p.m. March 15, 2013, when her 2003 Acura MDX drifted into the bicycle lane and struck Eric Billings, a 54-year-old construction company owner, Deputy District Attorney Stephen Cornwell said.
Fakhrai-Bayrooti was under the influence of prescription drugs such as Xanax and Suboxone at the time of the collision, the prosecutor said.
Defense attorney William Weinberg said the defendant became dependent on prescription drugs at an “early, early age” and may have early onset dementia because of her drug abuse.
The defendant wrote a letter to the judge asking for “mercy” that was read aloud in court. To the Billings family, she said, “You have my deepest sympathies and remorse.”
Fakhrai-Bayrooti said she was so inspired by Billings’ character that it “made it possible to admit my wrongdoing” and has prompted her to become more religious.
When the deadly collision happened, the defendant said she felt “numb” and was “screaming, pulling my hair out and not equipped to provide medical assistance” to the victim.
The defendant said two months prior to the collision, her father was diagnosed with lung cancer and she was under pressure in her job. She admitted it took her awhile to see the carnage from her actions.
“I had no idea my wreckage was of such magnitude,” she said. “But I am no longer in denial.”
Cornwell noted that the defendant had “lethal” levels of Xanax in her system when she killed Billings. Also, she brushed off numerous text messages from friends just before the collision “begging” her to stop driving and “sober up.”
The judge said Billings was an “exceptional human being” who never could have suspected on his last bike ride that he would fall victim to a “5,000-pound missile” driven by someone with a “near fatal dose” of drugs in her system.
Investigators found a prescription in the defendant’s car for Xanax that was filled two days before the collision. Of that prescription, only 45 of 120 pills were left, the judge said.
Jones also noted that the defendant’s first call after the collision was not to 911, but to her pharmacist. He said she presented a danger to society because there was no guarantee she wouldn’t drive intoxicated again in the near future if granted probation.
At a May 8 hearing, Jones heard multiple victim impact statements from Billings’ family members, some of whom live out of state, who implored the judge to sentence the defendant to the maximum punishment for taking the life of the Rancho Santa Margarita resident and married father of four.
Daren Billings told the judge last month that they were married for 33 years and he “is the love of my life.”
The victim’s daughter, Ashley Moffat, was six months pregnant when her father was killed and regretted her son will never meet his grandfather. He said of her grief, “I don’t want to be overly dramatic, but there are times when it physically hurts.”
Adam Billings said his father was a “good family man, someone to look up to as a role model — the best man I knew.”
The defendant’s attorney said she settled civil litigation with the Billings family by signing over a piece of undeveloped land.
— City News Service