Mansoor Karimi has a history of speeding.

He’s been cited for excessive speed about half a dozen times in the past decade, according to court records. And during opening arguments Monday in his vehicular homicide trial, a state prosecutor said Karimi was going 61 mph in a 25 mph zone when he blew through a four-way stop sign in 2016 and collided with a Chevrolet Cobalt, killing both its occupants.

But Karimi’s attorney, Tom Clark, said the crash that claimed the lives of Ian Sweatt, 33, and Christopher Bryant, 30, was “nothing less than a horrific accident” and his client is not to blame for the deaths.

“Folks, this was an automobile accident,” Clark said Monday during opening arguments, “and every automobile accident does not have to result in a criminal case.”

Karimi was charged with two counts of vehicular homicide due to reckless driving and a count of failure to render aid at the scene of the accident after police say he ran a stop sign at the intersection of Camino Carlos Rey and Plaza Verde on Dec. 16, 2016, and T-boned Bryant’s sedan.

Clark contended officials rushed to judgement when they charged Karimi before reviewing the results of toxicology tests, which showed the two men who died in the crash were impaired and that the driver, Bryant, may have been on his cellphone at the time.

Karimi was “dead sober” when the crash occurred, Clark said Monday, but toxicology reports showed Bryant had a blood alcohol content of 0.07 — just under the 0.08 threshold for legal intoxication in New Mexico. Both victims tested positive for marijuana use.

During his opening statement in District Court, Deputy District Attorney Kent Wahlquist downplayed the importance of the toxicology report, saying the fact that the men tested positive for THC metabolites only proved “that at some time previously they had smoked marijuana.”

Bryant’s phone was shown to be using data at the time of the crash, Wahlquist said, but it also appeared to be using data after he was pronounced dead.

Clark told jurors the case would be better resolved in civil court, adding that the families of the deceased have filed a lawsuit against the General Motors, claiming the Colbalt didn’t meet safety standards.

“The car they were driving was defective and dangerous and an impact of any kind was unsurvivable,” Clark said.

After opening arguments, two men who had stopped to help after seeing the crash took the stand as state witnesses.

Diego Gabaldon, 25, told jurors he had just passed the intersection when he saw a black blur — Karimi was driving a black BMW 335i — fly past him heading in the opposite direction.

Gabaldon estimated the vehicle was going “at least 70” when it passed him, adding a thought started to form in his mind that such speed was dangerous.

But before he could finish the thought, Gabaldon said, he heard a loud boom and looked into his rear-view mirror. He saw the two vehicles collide and dust and smoke fill the air.

Gabaldon said he turned around and drove back to the crash scene, where Karimi appeared to be dry heaving but uninjured.

He choked up when he described approaching Bryant’s car and seeing the two fatally injured men.

Bryant was obviously dead, he said, and his head was lolling at an angle that seemed to indicate his neck was broken.

Another man testified Karimi was talking on his cellphone when he approached him after the wreck and waved away his offer of assistance, directing him toward the Colbalt where a crowd of people was starting to form.

Family members of Bryant and Sweatt said outside the courtroom that the two young men where close friends. Neither was married or had children. Bryant’s mother said her son considered Sweatt and his other friends to be family.

Karimi’s trial is set to last through Friday. If convicted on all charges, he faces 13½ years in prison.

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(15) comments

K. Moore

We live in a country where we are allowed to post pretty much anything we want. Including our unsubstantiated opinions about someone else's life. Remember humans, there were two vehicles involved and 3 families. This is supposed to be a fair trial and hopefully ignorant comments will not sway a juror from contemplating ALL the facts. Be kind and put yourself in both family's shoes. This is a terrible situation for all involved and I sure hope that if something ever happens to me, that I don't have judgmental jurors who possibly don't have all the facts, convict me after just 8 hours of a trial. Remember all three of these men are someone's sons, brothers, cousins, and friends. It is wrong that anyone can sit behind their computer and spew about something they know little to nothing about. I would be sad to lose my son to a car accident and also losing my son to even one day in prison. Either situation is life changing to say the least. No need to place judgement. This is sad.

Khal Spencer

61 in a 25 if documented means this no true accident but in large part a result of risk taking. Opining here may mean I can't get past voir dire, but that's beside the point.

K. Moore

The deceased highly intoxicated while driving, if documented, doesn't mean deserving of death, but certainly means culpability. Therefore as a juror would absolutely make ME ponder!

Khal Spencer

61 in a 25 is no accident irregardless of what anyone else was doing. This guy needs to go to the Greybar Hotel for a while.

K. Moore

Wow! I sure hope your family or friends doesn't wind up in a tragic situation like this.

Khal Spencer

I don't do 61 in a 25.

William Craig

A speed van was constantly parked just a few yards from where this crash occurred on Camino Carlos Rey — obviously to no avail for slowing down Mr. Karimi’s careening Beamer. Large all-way stop signs have since been installed — a much smarter way to address speeding traffic.

Of course this is less profitable for well-connected parties, i.e., the notorious Redflex company that was running the speed vans in Santa Fe. As was pointed out in Steve Terrell’s column of March 18, 2019:

“A former Redflex top executive, Aaron Rosenberg, in a 2014 court filing claimed that the company had bestowed ‘gifts and bribes’ to win contracts in New Mexico and about a dozen other states.”

Bonnie Cox

The speed Monsoor Karuni was going was unconscionable. Throw the book at him and throw away the key. So sorry for the loss of life and the families who bare the pain.

K. Moore

You would convict someone when you don't even know all the facts? Hope you don't get selected for someone's trial. That's just not right.

Khal Spencer

What is your relationship to the defendant?

K. Moore

I don't have a relationship with the defendant. What is your relationship with the 2 men?

Khal Spencer

None. Just don't think people should be dead due to someone allegedly running a stop sign and doing 61 in a 25 and thereby weaponizing their car.

K. Moore

Well of course! But how do you know this man was actually guilty of that if you're not privy to the facts of the trial? My point is, it's unfair and unkind to convict someone before all the facts are presented. Too judgemental for me, I'd rather sleep knowing I made the right decisions based on facts, not emotions and prejudgment. That's all. Good day sir and may God help ALL these families find peace. It's truly sad for all who are affected.

Khal Spencer

I'm not on the jury, K.M. If I were, I'd have to base my vote on the testimony. As an ordinary citizen reading the paper, I can comment based on the article. Its not legally binding on anyone and indeed, if the defense attorney read my comment he or she could have me disqualified during voir dire. So the defendant's rights are presumably protected.

K. Moore

I'm not being literal. I'm staying that all the facts are not out in this article. She wrote about opening statements and first witnesses. You were all placing judgement with no basis yet. Let the facts be heard before wishing ill on a stranger. I'm pretty sure there's way more to be heard.

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