A man blamed for a fatal crash on MacArthur Drive in January
was sentenced Wednesday to two years in state prison.
Amanpaul Singh Phangureh, 27, of Tracy, expressed remorse and
apologized to the family of Pawiterjit Aulkh, the 30-year-old Tracy man who was
killed in the passenger’s seat during a late night crash on Jan. 5 on MacArthur
“My mistake was I chose to drink and drive that night. I
wish I could go back and be in Peter’s spot. I’m very sorry,” he told the
But Judge Richard Mallett said it was clear that Phangureh
was out for a night of drinking on Jan. 5, and pointed that his previous
encounters with police included three arrests for resisting officers and
disorderly conduct, all misdemeanors. His blood-alcohol content after his
arrest was .18, more than twice the level that the state considers a person to
He pointed out that Aulkh, who died at the scene, was drunk
too, with a blood alcohol content of .32, but Mallett said that only increased
Phangureh’s responsibility to his friend.
“It’s fairly obvious to me that the victim was vulnerable,”
he said. “You were in fact the driver who had control of the car the whole
evening. You did have a position of trust.”
Phangureh was originally charged with gross vehicular
manslaughter and felony drunken driving with enhancements for causing great
bodily injury. He pleaded guilty in September to the single lesser charge of
Mallett denied defense attorney Tim Rien’s request for
probation, but also said that since Phangureh has no prior felony convictions
he would impose less than the maximum four years in prison.
Mallett ordered Phangureh to pay restitution to Aulkh’s family
for $2,900 in burial costs, added a $3,000 fine and warned him that if he ever
causes the death of another person while driving drunk he would be charged with
murder. The conviction also counts as a “strike,” meaning that any future
conviction for a violent crime would result in a double sentence, and a third
could lead to life in prison.
Phangureh also faces a civil lawsuit filed in San Joaquin
Superior Court in April by Aulkh’s family.
Aulkh’s sister, brother and niece were in the courtroom on
Wednesday, but said nothing at the hearing and would not comment afterward.
Mallett read statements from letters they wrote to the court, where they urged
Mallett to reject Phangureh’s request for probation.
“I feel if you let the defendant slide with probation it
would be a slap on the wrist,” wrote Anjit Sandhu, Aulkh’s niece. His sister,
Satwinder Sandhu wrote about the effect her brother’s death has on the family.
“By custom and tradition it would be Peter who helps our
parents through the last years of their lives,” she wrote, echoing the family’s
sentiment in the civil suit.
Deputy District Attorney Kevin Ford told Mallett that
Phangureh had previously shown no remorse for his actions, and the nature of
the crash, where Phangureh’s car slammed sideways into two trees at about 66
mph, was particularly violent.
Rien said Phangureh is remorseful and has accepted
responsibility for driving drunk that night, but was advised to discuss the
case with no one.
“The problem that creates, it makes the client seem distant
and aloof and uncaring and unfeeling because they’ve been silenced by their
lawyer,” Rien said.
We want to hear what you have to say. Comment on this story
at www.tracypress.com, or to reach reporter Bob Brownne call 830-4227 or e-mail