Va. Teen Is Sentenced to a Year in Jail for Deadly High-Speed Crash

By Daniela Deane
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, July 28, 2007

Saadet Muslu's classmates at Langley High School in McLean will be heading to college soon, but she'll be serving a one-year jail sentence. When she gets out, a judge said yesterday, she'll spend the next 10 years talking to teenagers about the dangers of speeding and "what it's like for a young person to spend time in jail."

Arlington County Circuit Court Judge Benjamin N.A. Kendrick sentenced Muslu, 18, to a year in jail for involuntary manslaughter in a high-speed crash on the George Washington Memorial Parkway last year that killed one of her passengers and seriously injured two others.

"I hope to God we can save some lives," said an emotional Kendrick, who said he had struggled with the case. "Thousands of people are dying every year."

Muslu, who was 17 and traveling more than 100 mph at the time of the Sept. 28 crash, tried to read a prepared statement that she had written in jail but broke down. Her attorney, Peter D. Greenspun, read the statement, in which she called her behavior "irresponsible and idiotic" and said she will forever live with the "unimaginable pain" of the death of her friend Jesse H. Little, 21, also of Great Falls.

The defense contended that Muslu was being egged on by some of her passengers to go faster and faster when she lost control of the car, which belonged to her friend's mother. The car skidded more than 300 feet near the Spout Run exit, crashed into the embankment, went airborne and then slammed into a tall tree eight feet up.

Muslu, a senior at Langley at the time, admitted to police that she was going more than 100 mph. One of her passenger's parents testified that Muslu told her she was going as fast as 130 mph, trying to beat her friend's 123-mph record on the road, where the speed limit is 40 mph at that spot.

Little, 21, was the oldest of the five people in the car. Two other teenagers were seriously injured, one of whom spent five weeks in intensive care. Both have largely recovered.

Muslu and the front-seat passenger, whose mother owned the car, had minor injuries.

A jury of seven men and five women convicted Muslu of involuntary manslaughter March 14. Greenspun said yesterday that Muslu was subjected not to peer pressure but to "peer idiocy." He said other teenagers in the car -- who he insisted he didn't want to blame -- had shouted "you're a baby" to try to get Muslu to step on the gas.

During the trial, Greenspun painted a picture of a chaotic night among the meandering teenagers, with constant cellphone calls, text messages and brief stops across Northern Virginia.

One of the teenagers testified that the front-seat passenger in the car wanted to prove that her mother's Lexus LS 430 was faster than the BMW 745 owned by Muslu's parents. He testified that there was "nothing" going on that night and that the teenagers were looking for something to do.

Greenspun asked Kendrick to take all those factors into account when considering his sentence.

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