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Doctor Pleads No Contest in Accident Where He Drove With Body On Car

 Prosecutors disputed Wednesday that a Wichita doctor who drove for three miles with a lawn worker’s body on top of his van suffered from a medical condition the morning of the June 10 accident last year, saying he had the presence of mind to make statements to police.
 

Mohammad Sarrafizadeh, 67, told police that he saw Ramon Martinez-Limon, the 31-year-old man who was trimming grass in an easement, 50 to 100 feet ahead of him on Greenwich Road near Douglas before he struck him three to five seconds later, chief deputy attorney Aaron Breitenbach said Wednesday afternoon. Sarrafizadeh also told police that he saw Martinez-Limon strike his windshield, Breitenbach said.

Martinez-Limon’s body flew onto the roof of Sarrafizadeh’s van, and the doctor drove home and into his garage. Witnesses tried to stop him, and some followed him to his home.

Sarrafizadeh’s lawyer, Dan Monnat, maintained during the case that the doctor, who surrendered his medical license, suffered a stroke that morning and said that respected physicians “have regarded the evidence and the testing as sufficient to conclude that he had a stroke at the time of the accident and his condition continues to deteriorate.”

But Breitenbach said there were no “scientific facts” to support that. Breitenbach said Sarrafizadeh did suffer what he called a “real” stroke in November, months after the accident.

“We obviously disagree,” Breitenbach said of the district attorney office’s opinion of Sarrafizadeh’s health that day.

Sarrafizadeh was driving his 22-year-old daughter, who is severely mentally disabled, to her special-needs school the morning of the accident, Monnat has said. Police said Martinez-Limon was working near the street when a minivan struck him at about 7:15 a.m. near a Hawker Beechcraft plant entrance. Police arrested Sarrafizadeh the next day.

Sarrafizadeh pleaded no contest to a misdemeanor count of vehicular homicide on Friday. A judge sentenced him immediately to a 12-month suspended jail sentence and a year of non-reporting probation. He also had faced a felony – failure to stop at an accident resulting in death – but prosecutors dropped that charge. Monnat thanked the district attorney’s office for “permitting this simplified final resolution.”

Asked what he meant by that comment, Monnat said his client’s “condition is such that he’s not up to additional litigation. We needed to resolve it for that reason, and the DA worked out a plea agreement with us and permitted him not to contest the misdemeanor case against him.”

Monnat said the doctor plans to move to New York to be with family. Breitenbach and chief district attorney Tom Weilert spoke to the media Wednesday in response to comments Monnat made about the case. Sarrafizadeh “has allowed the court to find that he was responsible” for Martinez-Limon’s death, but the accident, Breitenbach noted, was an “unintentional action on his part.”

Asked if Sarrafizadeh’s sentence was fitting for a case that involved a man’s death, Breitenbach said the district attorney’s office does “look at the circumstances of the defendant.”

Sarrfizadeh did call police that morning, but it was after several people already had and after people had followed him home, Breitenbach. “It was untimely, obviously,” Breitenbach said of the doctor’s call. Sarrafizadeh had the wherewithal to drive home, drive into his garage and go inside his home that morning, Breitenbach said, saying those actions were “inconsistent with” someone who had blacked out. “All that shows a mental process inconsistent with a stroke or stroke-like event,” Breitenbach said.

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The Wichita Eagle – By Deb Gruver and Tim Potter