- A man who killed a cyclist in Fourways in 2020 pleaded guilty to culpable homicide and driving under the influence of alcohol.
- The accused asked the court that he be sentenced to correctional supervision.
- However, the family of the cyclist asked the court for a sentence of direct imprisonment.
The family of a cyclist killed by a drunken driver pleaded with the court for a sentence of direct imprisonment, instead of acceding to his request for correctional supervision.
Ishe Davani, 43, appeared in the Randburg Magistrate's Court in Johannesburg on Monday, where he pleaded guilty to culpable homicide and driving under the influence of alcohol.
Davani drove into 37-year-old father of two, Steven Preston, who was cycling in Fourways, on 11 June 2020. The incident happened on Uranium Street, opposite the Ambar Downs residential complex.
In his plea explanation, Davani admitted that he was negligent and under the influence when he climbed into his BMW to buy headache medication for his mother at around 13:00.
Davani said he lost control of the vehicle and, at one point, veered completely off the road.
He struck Preston, who was on the side of the road, at the entrance to the complex.
Preston, who was stuck under the vehicle, died on the scene 40 minutes later.
Davani conceded he had no defence to the charges and was subsequently found guilty on both charges by the court.
Mitigation of sentence
In mitigation of sentence, Davani's defence lawyer handed in a report about his client's suitability for correctional supervision.
According to the report, which was read out in court, Davani was a suitable candidate for correctional supervision, meaning that he would be placed under house arrest, instead of serving time in prison.
Davani also took the stand to testify in mitigation of sentence.
He told the court he had stopped drinking after killing Preston, and that he thought about the crash every day.
He conceded to not reaching out to Preston's wife or parents, but explained that he wanted to give them space to grieve and did not want to intrude on their privacy.
While in the witness box, Davani stood up and proceeded to read out a letter he had written to the Preston family.
While facing the family, who were sitting in the front row of the gallery, Davani said not a single day had gone by that he did not regret his actions.
He told the family that nothing he could say or do would ever help them heal or fill the void of losing Preston.
"I am filled with so much remorse and shame for what I did."
He added that he did not deserve the family's forgiveness.
Under cross-examination, the State prosecutor, Yusuf Baba, grilled Davani about his actions leading up to the incident.
Baba pointed out that the crash happened while the country was under Level 4 lockdown, and that the sale of alcohol was prohibited at the time.
He also handed in Davani's blood work, which showed that he had an alcohol level of 0.32mg per 100ml of blood, but the legal limit to drive was 0.05mg.
Davani conceded that he had a lot to drink and had started drinking at 08:00.
Baba also admitted video footage of the incident as evidence, which showed how Davani, seemingly speeding, lost control of the vehicle and rammed into Preston, who was clearly trying to avoid the collision on the side of the road.
The court heard that Preston died from multiple blunt force injuries.
When asked by Baba why he did not hit the brake pedal, after swerving off the road the first time, Davani said he tried to stop, but must have pushed on the accelerator instead.
Baba had Davani admit that he had driven under the influence before the crash - but, after an objection raised by his attorney, changed his tune to say he had never driven while drunk before.
In aggravation of sentence, Preston's wife, Bernice, told the court that Davani's apology did not change what he did, and that nothing would bring her husband back.
Calling for the court to impose a sentence of direct imprisonment, Bernice explained that her minor children had lost a loving father and that she had lost her best friend and soulmate.
Preston's father, Ian, testified that his son's death had destroyed their family.
Ian explained that, since the incident, he had sleepless nights replaying how his son died.
He recalled how Preston was a careful cyclist and had even advised against cycling on a Saturday morning, for fear of drunk drivers. Preston was killed on a Thursday afternoon.
Ian did not accept Davani's apology and told the court that he had been to court at least 10 times since the incident, but Davani had never approached the family for forgiveness in that time.
"I'll never accept it."
When asked by Baba what an appropriate sentence would be, Ian did not mince his words: "Direct imprisonment."
Preston's best friend, Brett Scott, told the court that Davani should spend time behind bars.
The matter has been postponed to Friday, for arguments and possible sentencing.