MARTINEZ -- A 54-year-old Walnut Creek man was sentenced to four years and eight months in state prison Friday for running over two pedestrians, killing one of them, outside a Walnut Creek hotel last year after falling asleep at the wheel of his truck.
Sobbing violently, Hossein Tabrizi told the surviving victim and her family in court that he never should have attempted to drive that day while he was tired and high on the prescription anti-anxiety drug Ativan.
"I wish to tell you how sorry I am for causing you and your family so much pain," Tabrizi said. "Most of all, I'm sorry for taking your mother away from you and your family."
Tabrizi pleaded guilty Friday to gross vehicular manslaughter while intoxicated for killing 52-year-old Santa Barbara schoolteacher Sherry Hicks and to driving under the influence causing injury for hurting Hicks' daughter-in-law, Sheng Hahn, on Sept. 8, 2012.
Tabrizi had just gotten off work from a downtown tire shop and fell sleep twice at the wheel, the second time with tragic results.
Hicks and her husband, Jeff, were in town visiting her son, Casey Hahn, and his wife. The four were on the sidewalk outside the Marriott Hotel on North Main Street when an unconscious Tabrizi lost control of his pickup and struck the two women.
Sherry Hicks was killed, and Sheng Hahn was hospitalized for a month with severe injuries she continues to struggle with today.
"My mother was a selfless, loving, joyful and compassionate person," Casey Hahn said. "Whether it was dinner, walks with her dog, in the car or on the phone, she made me feel that joy and love."
Hicks' mother, Betty Schwartz, said she still expects to hear her daughter's voice when she answers the phone.
"Life was wonderful, and then one day everything changed," Schwartz said.
Tabrizi has a prior DUI conviction in Ventura County and other arrests there for suspicion of DUI and public intoxication. He is a citizen of Iran, in the U.S. with a green card, and will likely be deported after his incarceration, his attorney, William Gagen, said.
Prosecutors said that 20 minutes before the fatal crash, Tabrizi was seen passed out behind the wheel of his truck at a downtown stoplight, causing other motorists to shake him awake and call police. An officer pulled him over shortly afterward and, after giving him field sobriety tests, let him go, according to prosecutors.
The Contra Costa County District Attorney's Office dismissed several charge enhancements as part of a plea deal Tabrizi accepted Friday. Had Tabrizi been convicted as originally charged, he could have received more than 10 years in prison.
Contact Malaika Fraley at 925-234-1684. Follow her at Twitter.com/malaikafraley.