Judge sentences Richmond driver to a year in jail after VCU crosswalk death

Posted at 4:56 PM, May 08, 2024
and last updated 2024-05-08 18:24:54-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- The driver whose reckless driving caused a crash that killed a VCU student last year in front of the Altria Theater was sentenced to spend 12 months behind bars.

Shanthi Bhagat was driving at about 9 a.m. in January 2023 when she hit and killed Mahrokh Kahn.

Kahn, 22, was crossing the intersection of N. Laurel and W. Main Streets when she was hit.

Bhagat had been charged with involuntary manslaughter, but last month a jury acquitted her of that charge.

She was, however, found guilty of reckless driving and two counts of failure to obey a traffic signal.

Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Nathan Hittle said evidence showed Bhagat was going 7-10 miles per hour over the speed limit and was speeding up at the time of impact.

He also said evidence showed Bhagat was looking at her phone four seconds before the crash and had run two red lights prior to the crash.

Hittle said evidence showed she was running late to class, but did have the green light when the impact occurred, meaning Kahn did not have the green light to cross the intersection.

However, Hittle said under the Code of Virginia in this circumstance the pedestrian had the right of way.

“Even if you have the green light you have to yield to the pedestrian if they are in the roadway,” Hittle said.

He added that in misdemeanor cases like this one the code allows people serving time to obtain up to 50 percent credit for good behavior while they’re serving time, so it’s possible she will end up serving six months of her twelve-month sentence.

This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email to send a tip.

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