By Tom Jackman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, March 13, 2010; B01
A Fairfax County jury on Friday rejected Evan D. Gargiulo's claims that he acted in self-defense, or out of insanity, when he shot cabdriver Mazhar Nazir in the head near Tysons Corner in 2008, and convicted Gargiulo of second-degree murder.
Then, after listening to wrenching testimony from both men's families about the devastation the single gunshot had caused, jurors sentenced Gargiulo to 15 years in prison: 12 for murder and a mandatory three consecutive years for using a gun. They could have imposed up to 40 years for second-degree murder. At least three jurors wept during the testimony.
Nazir's family and friends were disgusted by the sentence. The cabbie had given Gargiulo a lengthy ride from the District to Reston and then to Tysons Corner, for which Gargiulo did not have the $130 fare. Gargiulo, now 23, said Nazir, 49, became angry and reached over the driver's seat at him. Gargiulo told police he pushed Nazir's arm away and then shot Nazir once in the back of the head with a 9mm pistol because he feared for his life.
Nazir was a native of Pakistan who had been in the United States for 33 years and had driven a cab in the Washington area for 25 years. He lived in Baileys Crossroads with his wife and son. Since Nazir's death, his friends and family have told numerous stories of his generosity -- taking in strangers at his home, helping new immigrants start their lives -- and his refusal to quibble over money with acquaintances or passengers.
"There's an emptiness in my life," his son, Zain Nazir, 13, told the jury Friday. "There's no one that listens to me like my dad did. My dad cared for me. He didn't care about any money."
Gargiulo was raised in a suburban home in central New Jersey without a speck of trouble on his record through high school and then college at Penn State University. He joined Army ROTC and underwent basic training before his junior year, graduated with honors and was commissioned a second lieutenant in the National Guard in May 2008. Hoping to serve his country overseas, his father said, Gargiulo took a job as a systems engineer with defense contractor Lockheed Martin in Herndon and moved to Northern Virginia in August 2008.
About three months later, on Nov. 1, 2008, Gargiulo attended a Halloween party at Fur, a nightclub in the District. He was dressed as a surfer in a short wet suit and a blond wig. He told police that he had his wallet, cellphone and keys in a nylon bag and that the bag was stolen while he was in the club's VIP room that night.
The theft upset Gargiulo, and in a videotaped statement with homicide detectives Nov. 5, 2008, he cried as he recalled discovering that his items were missing. His sense of safety and security had been violated, according to renowned forensic psychologist Stanton E. Samenow, who testified that Gargiulo's disproportionate paranoia and fear kicked in. Samenow, nationally known for testifying against defendants claiming insanity, opined for the first time in his career that a defendant -- Gargiulo -- was insane.
Gargiulo told police that he had hired Nazir to take him to his apartment in Reston. Once there, Gargiulo retrieved keys for his Nissan Xterra and his 9mm gun. Nazir then drove Gargiulo to his Xterra, parked at Tysons Corner. But when Gargiulo realized a roll of cash stuffed in his wetsuit also was gone, he said Nazir grew angry. Nazir gave Gargiulo a cellphone to call friends, but Gargiulo had no phone numbers for them.
That's when, he said, Nazir tried to attack him. Gargiulo, a physically fit competitive swimmer, said he is 5-foot-6 and feared the larger Nazir, who was 5-foot-10.
After shooting Nazir, Gargiulo took the cabbie's cellphone and the receipt from the meter, got in his Xterra and drove home without calling 911. He called his father in New Jersey, his father said. When Gargiulo got home, he called his college roommate, Francis Roman, who testified Friday that Gargiulo called the incident his "first civilian kill." He told police he cleaned his gun, threw away the bullets and then tossed Nazir's cellphone when Nazir's wife began calling.
The jury took six hours over two days to decide against Gargiulo's claims of self-defense and insanity.
Jurors heard Gargiulo's parents testify to his unblemished record and his charity work. Then Gargiulo himself testified, through tears.
"To say I'm sorry is just an understatement," he said.
Looking at Nazir's widow and son, he said, "How do you tell this kid, this is what happened?"
The jury took about 90 minutes to reach its sentence.
"They didn't actually look for justice," Nazir's widow, Rubina Shan Nazir, said through an Urdu interpreter. "This 15 years is not enough. He [Gargiulo] is alive, and his family can go and visit him. My husband can never come back again. To me, this is not justice."