Arlington boy's injury prompts move for stricter DWI laws

ARLINGTON -- Cars scare her now, Loubna Elharazin said Thursday.

It's impossible to tell who is driving drunk, and the courts seem unable to take drunken drivers off the streets, Elharazin said during a news conference at Arlington's police station.

State Reps. Chris Turner, D-Burleson, and Pete Gallego, D-Alpine, called the news conference to discuss laws they hope to pass in the next legislative session that will keep drunken drivers in prison once they have been convicted of life-altering crimes.

Elharazin was there to support the legislators' plan, but the laws would come too late to help her family. Her son Abdallah is in a permanent vegetative state, the result of a crash caused by a man with multiple drunken-driving convictions.

"We're filing Abdallah's laws to clarify our laws," Turner said. "We will also enhance the penalties for causing a catastrophic injury.

"Clearly there's a difference between causing someone a broken leg and causing someone to be in a permanent vegetative state."

Prosecutors say Stewart L. Richardson was drunk on Feb. 20, 2009, when his Ford F-150 rammed into the rear of the Khader family's Honda Accord, which was stopped at a red light at Oak Village Boulevard and South Cooper Street.

Abdallah Khader, then 2, suffered a head injury. His mother, his father, Fahad Khader, and a sibling, Ghazi Khader, were less seriously injured.

Abdallah stayed at Cook Children's Medical Center until April 25, 2009, when he went home in what doctors described as an irreversible vegetative state.

"I just want to look at him and tell him that he has not learned from eight times before," Elharazin said about the man accused of injuring her son. "He drives these big vehicles with the raised tires, and he knows he's going to kill someone.

"It will hurt me inside just to see my son and know that this man may hurt someone else."

Richardson, 45, remained in the Tarrant County Jail on Thursday on charges of assault and driving while intoxicated. Richardson's lawyers persuaded state District Judge George Gallagher to keep prior drunken-driving convictions from being used to increase his possible punishment, capping the time he could serve at 20 years.

Richardson's convictions were in 1994 in Iowa, which considers them misdemeanors. Therefore, Texas prosecutors cannot charge him with first-degree felonies, even though in the Iowa case, five people were injured in a wreck Richardson caused.

Richardson was subsequently sentenced to 45 days in jail in that case.

"Once you have a conviction in one state, that ought to mean something in every other state," Gallego said.

Tarrant County prosecutors are appealing Gallagher's ruling. Turner and Gallego, chairman of the House Committee on Criminal Jurisprudence, said they would work to pass legislation that will ensure that another Texas family never again faces such injustice.

Elharazin said that Richardson took away her child's life and that life in prison is what he should serve.

"When you play with people's lives, there should be no second chance," she said. "When you drive drunk, even the first time, there should be no second chance."

This report includes material from the Star-Telegram archives.

Mitch Mitchell, 817-390-7752