Courtesy Willard Hilborn
Thursday, May 13, 2010 | 11:56 a.m.
Willard Hilborn leaned on a cane as he walked to the witness stand Thursday to tell a judge how his life had been forever changed when a 26-year-old man drove his car onto a sidewalk east of the Las Vegas Strip, striking him and his partner, who were in Las Vegas for a trade show.
Hilborn, 60, was seriously injured. Dennis Christopher Dietrich, 56, died at the scene.
District Court Judge James Bixler on Thursday sentenced the man who was behind the wheel, Mahmod Alseidahmad, to two to five years in prison.
Hilborn returned to Las Vegas for the sentencing hearing. He told the judge he had returned to the scene of the accident, which happened in front of Blair House Suites in the 300 block of Desert Inn Road. The collision happened Dec. 9, 2009.
“The light post has been freshly painted to hide the bloodstains. Please don’t whitewash what Mahmod has done,” an emotional Hilborn implored the judge.
Alseidahmad in March pleaded guilty to one count of reckless driving in connection with the collision. Police initially believed he was under the influence of prescription drugs but toxicology reports showed he didn't have drugs or alcohol in his system.
Witnesses told investigators that shortly before the wreck, they saw Alseidahmad’s black 1995 Honda Accord traveling at speeds up to 70 mph, weaving in and out of traffic. After the driver lost control, the vehicle spun and its rear struck the men. The car came to rest after striking a light pole, police said.
Prosecutor Steve Waters argued for the maximum sentence, which would have been two to six years. In court, he read from witness statements. One witness described to police after the wreck that “the men, dressed with convention center badges draped around their necks, were hit like ragdolls and thrown down the sidewalk.”
He said what happened was not an accident, calling Alseidahmad’s actions “wanton behavior.”
“This is no different than somebody taking a shotgun and pointing towards a crowd and firing,” he said. “The expected result – when you treat Desert Inn as your own personal NASCAR track – is you’re going to lose control, you’re going to wreck and you’re going to kill somebody.”
Alseidahmad’s attorney, Ihab Omar, asked the judge for mercy.
“Give him the benefit of the doubt in this case, give him the benefit that other people have gotten in worse circumstances than this,” he asked the judge. “We understand that somebody died – it’s a tragedy your honor – we feel for the victims. But ultimately at its core, this is about an accident.”
A shackled Alseidahmad apologized before his sentence was handed down.
“I want to apologize for the people I have harmed in this unfortunate incident. I feel horrible for what’s happened,“ he said, apologizing to the victim’s family and friends. “My heart goes out to each and every one of them. I had no intention to hurt anybody and I wish that this never happened.”
Hilborn told the judge that he was talking to a friend on the phone when he was hit by the car. She heard the entire scene unfold and still has nightmares, he said.
Hilborn said injuries to his knee, ankle and hip may never fully heal.
“I’m told that my body, like my life, will never be the same as before,” Hilborn said. “I may some day be able to sleep through the night, find happiness, get another dog, buy another home, and in general continue on with my life. But Christopher Deitrich will never have that chance.
“I suffer through this every day, but I am alive. Chris’s life was violently ripped from him because of the careless actions of another human being.”
Alseidahmad, a native of Jordan, could face deportation after he serves his sentence, authorities have said. He was arrested at University Medical Center after the wreck and has been held in the Clark County Detention Center on $250,000 bail.