Gargiulo convicted of murder of Fairfax cab driver; gets 15-year sentence
Update, 4:50 p.m.:
The jury sentenced Gargiulo to 15 years in prison late Friday. He got 12 years on the murder charge and three years for using the gun.
A Fairfax County jury Friday convicted Evan Gargiulo of second-degree murder in the 2008 slaying of cab driver Mazhar Nazir, rejecting his claims of self-defense and insanity at the time of the shooting.
The verdict came in at noon, after the jury had spent six hours deliberating. Gargiulo showed no emotion as the verdict was read.
Fairfax Chief Deputy Commonwealth's Attorney Ian M. Rodway said that he planned to call Francis Roman, the witness (see below) who was unavailable on Thursday to testify that Gargiulo had called the shooting his "first civilian kill." He also plans to call Nazir's widow, who has sat silently watching the trial along with dozens of Nazir's friends.
Most of Nazir's friends were pleased with the verdict, though some wanted a finding of first-degree murder, which carries a penalty of 20 years to life. Second-degree murder carries a term of five to 40 years. The jury will hear evidence and then set a penalty, which White can later impose or reduce.
"I'm happy with this, " said Nasrullah Khan, who emigrated to the United States and first stayed with Nazir in 1986. "It could have been worse."
Altaf H. Anjum, another longtime friend, said, "We are proud of the Virginia commonwealth attorney and his hard struggle in the case. Nazir's family needed justice. The jury, the judge, Detective [John] Wallace, the prosecutor, they all did a very good job."
- - -
Most of the facts of the case were not in dispute. What is: whether the Gargiulo, a recent Penn State graduate and second lieutenant in the U.S. Army National Guard was acting in self-defense after allegedly informing Nazir he didn't have the $130 he agreed to pay for a long cab ride around Northern Virginia.
But in trying to determine Gargiulo's intent and actions, the jury didn't hear one alleged piece of possibly incendiary evidence: a comment to his old college roommate shortly after the shooting that he had just achieved his "first civilian kill," Rodway said in court on Wednesday.
Gargiulo said in his videotaped statement to police that he'd been very upset after shooting Nazir, a 49-year-old married father of one. He said Nazir had turned around from the driver's seat to grab him, so he pushed his arm away, then pulled out his 9mm pistol and shot him. He acknowledged not calling 911, driving home and calling his father and his Penn State roommate, Francis Roman, while using Nazir's phone.
Gargiulo said he called Roman to commiserate and calm down. Roman reportedly told police that Gargiulo commented that he had made "his first civilian kill," Rodway said, and prosecutors wanted to call Roman as a rebuttal witness.
Roman now lives in West Virginia, wasn't thrilled about being a witness against his friend and had to be subpoenaed as an out-of-state witness. Prosecutors filed the required paperwork last month, but in a bureaucratic mixup in either Virginia or West Virginia, the paperwork was lost and Roman wasn't subpoenaed.
A rush process was started again during the trial this week, and copies of the original documents were faxed to West Virginia, Rodway said.
But in a Wednesday hearing, a West Virginia judge told Roman he didn't have to abide by faxed documents if he didn't want to. He didn't want to, Rodway said. And so, although Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Bruce D. White had given Rodway an extra day to get Roman to Fairfax, it wasn't enough.
On Thursday, Rodway did call a co-worker of Gargiulo's at Lockheed Martin in Herndon. Christopher Pepper said Gargiulo seemed fine on the Monday after the early Sunday shooting, and spoke only of having his wallet, cell phone and keys stolen while he was at a D.C. club Saturday night. He said Gargiulo left work in the early afternoon, telling Pepper he had thrown up.
By then, police were tracking Nazir's cell phone and the GPS in his cab, which had Gargiulo's address in it. (Gargiulo did reach in and take his receipt from the meter after shooting Nazir, evidence showed. "What was that for, tax purposes?" Rodway cracked in his closing argument.)
Rodway asked the jury to convict Gargiulo of first-degree murder, saying that Virginia law defines premeditation as any intent formed right up to the moment of the shooting. Defense lawyer Barry Helfand, using a PowerPoint slide show presentation for his closing, made the case for not guilty by self-defense, or not guilty by reason of insanity, saying Gargiulo had legitimate fear of Nazir and had no malice toward the driver.
The jury's other options are second-degree murder and voluntary manslaughter.
When the jury returns with its verdict, the courtroom will be packed. Dozens of Nazir's loyal friends, many of them fellow cab drivers, have attended every minute of every hearing in the case.
And Gargiulo's extended family -- he is from Hillsborough, N.J., near Princeton -- was also packing the benches Thursday.
(This post was updated from the original to reflect the conviction.)
-- Tom Jackman
March 12, 2010; 4:50 PM ET
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