Man pleads guilty in Arlington drunken-driving death

Aman Singh Lail pleaded guilty Thursday in Arlington Circuit Court to involuntary manslaughter and driving while intoxicated in a January crash that killed an Alexandria man.

Lail, 24, a business administration student at Northern Virginia Community College, was eastbound on Lee Highway in Arlington about 2 a.m. Jan. 24 when the Jeep Wrangler he was driving went through a red light and collided with a car. The other driver, Saqlain Chowdhury, also 24, was taken to George Washington University Hospital, where he died.

Under a plea agreement with prosecutors, Lail would be sentenced to no more than 12 years in prison. But Judge Louise M. DiMatteo said she would wait until pre-sentencing investigations are completed to decide whether to accept the deal.

When police interviewed Lail at the scene, according to prosecutors, he initially said a man named “Mo” — someone he had met that night at a bar in Fairfax — was driving the Wrangler and fled after the crash. Lail allegedly told officers that he was drunk and had given up control of his brother-in-law’s SUV because did not want to be charged a second time with driving under the influence. Lail failed a field sobriety test, authorities said.

But one of two passengers in the SUV told police that Lail was the driver, according to prosecutors, and Lail later said he “wanted to fess up” — that he had been driving and had run two red lights. Lail said that he tried to stop at the second light but that the Jeep’s brakes were not working properly.

A post-crash analysis determined that Lail was driving 53 mph on a stretch of road where the speed limit is 30. But prosecutors said that because the truck was equipped with larger-than-standard tires, his speed is estimated to have been 62 mph.

According to police, Lail drank four vodka and orange juice drinks and two shots of tequila before attempting to drive. His blood alcohol level was estimated at 0.146 to 0.197, based on a blood test several hours after the crash. The legal limit is 0.08.

Lail’s defense attorney, Chris Leibig, disputed the police account on both the number of drinks and the blood alcohol level. He said a breath test taken at the scene of the crash recorded a level of 0.116.

“It doesen’t change his remorse or fact of guilt,” Leibig said, but it could be a factor in sentencing.

Lail has nearly three dozen charges from Northern Virginia on his driving record, authorities said. Several are related to drunken driving or speeding, including a 2010 charge of driving under the influence in Arlington that was pleaded down to reckless driving.

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Rachel Weiner covers local politics for The Washington Post.
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