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Friday, March 12, 2010

Diver Down: Wetsuit-Clad Former Reston Resident Convicted in 2008 Taxicab Murder

110508gargiuloevan.jpgEvan D. Garguilo, the wetsuit-clad Reston man on trial for the 2008 slaying of a taxicab driver in Tysons Corner, was convicted of second-degree murder today. Update: Garguilo was sentenced to 15 years in prison; 12 years for the murder charge, three for using the gun.

A Fairfax County jury Friday convicted Evan Gargiulo of second-degree murder in the 2008 slaying of cab driver Mazhar Nazir, rejecting his claims of self-defense and insanity at the time of the shooting.

The verdict came in at noon, after the jury had spent six hours deliberating. Gargiulo showed no emotion as the verdict was read.

A sentencing hearing was set to begin soon after the verdict, but defense lawyer Steven Garver told the judge he wasn't expecting the next phase to begin Friday and had sent some of Gargiulo's family members back to New Jersey, where Gargiulo, 23, grew up. Lead attorney Barry Helfand wasn't present for the verdict, and none of Gargiulo's family was in the courtroom when it was read.

"I'm stunned at what you're telling me," Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Bruce D. White told Garver, when Garver could not even produce the names of witnesses who were unavailable, and that the defense was "not prepared." White said he will reconvene at 1:30 p.m. and decide whether to have the hearing with whatever witnesses are available, which include Gargiulo's parents, who wept in the hallway after the verdict.

Most of Nazir's friends were pleased with the verdict, though some wanted a finding of first-degree murder, which carries a penalty of 20 years to life. Second-degree murder carries a term of five to 40 years. The jury will hear evidence and then set a penalty, which White can later impose or reduce.

"I'm happy with this, " said Nasrullah Khan, who emigrated to the United States and first stayed with Nazir in 1986. "It could have been worse."
So much for the best expert witness money could buy. Actually, the prosecution lost the opportunity to have its own star witness:
Most of the facts of the case were not in dispute. What is: whether the Gargiulo, a recent Penn State graduate and second lieutenant in the U.S. Army National Guard was acting in self-defense after allegedly informing Nazir he didn't have the $130 he agreed to pay for a long cab ride around Northern Virginia.

But in trying to determine Gargiulo's intent and actions, the jury didn't hear one alleged piece of possibly incendiary evidence: a comment to his old college roommate shortly after the shooting that he had just achieved his "first civilian kill," Rodway said in court on Wednesday.

Gargiulo said in his videotaped statement to police that he'd been very upset after shooting Nazir, a 49-year-old married father of one. He said Nazir had turned around from the driver's seat to grab him, so he pushed his arm away, then pulled out his 9mm pistol and shot him. He acknowledged not calling 911, driving home and calling his father and his Penn State roommate, Francis Roman, while using Nazir's phone.

Gargiulo said he called Roman to commiserate and calm down. Roman reportedly told police that Gargiulo commented that he had made "his first civilian kill," Rodway said, and prosecutors wanted to call Roman as a rebuttal witness.

Roman now lives in West Virginia, wasn't thrilled about being a witness against his friend and had to be subpoenaed as an out-of-state witness. Prosecutors filed the required paperwork last month, but in a bureaucratic mixup in either Virginia or West Virginia, the paperwork was lost and Roman wasn't subpoenaed.

A rush process was started again during the trial this week, and copies of the original documents were faxed to West Virginia, Rodway said.

But in a Wednesday hearing, a West Virginia judge told Roman he didn't have to abide by faxed documents if he didn't want to. He didn't want to, Rodway said. And so, although Fairfax Circuit Court Judge Bruce D. White had given Rodway an extra day to get Roman to Fairfax, it wasn't enough.
That testimony might have been the difference between a first- or second-degree murder conviction, but at least the shifting insanity/self-defense claims of the defense didn't wind up holding water with the jury.

Update: Nazir's widow isn't happy about the 15-year sentence, saying the jury "didn't actually look for justice."


  1. Bye-bye, Evan. We'll see in in 5-40. By the way, if you drop the soap, don't bend over to pick it up.

  2. "That testimony [Frances Roman] might have been the difference between a first- or second-degree murder conviction"

    What a hero. Standing up for a cold-blooded murderer.

  3. WOOF -- he's hot! I'd bend over for him :)


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