After an hour-long hearing in King County Superior Court, Judge Andrea Darvas gave the man who hit and killed Robb Mason a slightly longer sentence than prosecutors recommended in his plea bargain: 4 years. The recommendation had been just under 3 1/2 years, but the judge said that while she usually follows agreed-to recommendations, “it’s not enough in this case.” She sentenced 21-year-old Mohamed A. Yusuf – who pleaded guilty last week to vehicular homicide and hit-and-run – after hearing from Mr. Mason’s widow and her brother, and from Yusuf and a cousin. In opening the hearing (which we covered via Zoom), prosecutor Amy Freedheim lauded the painstaking investigation through which SPD Traffic Collision Investigation Squad detectives found Yusuf, enabling him to be charged, almost half a year after he hit and killed Mr. Mason just east of the low bridge, as the victim rode his bike home to Magnolia from his job as a West Seattle massage therapist. That is a career to which he changed in his 40s – 20 years before his death – his brother-in-law told the judge, a change he made because he “chose to care” about people and wanted to help them heal. “In the blink of an eye, this remarkable man was taken away from us.”
Claudia Mason told the judge that she has counted the days since her husband was killed – 434 so far – because “each day is another day of the life sentence” with which Yusuf’s actions left her. She said her husband was so healthy, he could have lived another 30 to 40 years and that’s time they could have spent together. “I believe Robb went directly to heaven, but I went straight to hell.” She called Yusuf, sitting in the courtroom feet away from her, “reckless, vicious, callous, cruel … a coward” and “a thief,” declaring that he “stole my life from me … nothing is the same.” She spoke not only of the ongoing pain but also of what happened that night – she didn’t know what had happened to him for hours – and days after, unable to see his “annihilated” body until the funeral. She told the judge that leniency would only do “more harm.”
But leniency is what Yusuf’s defense lawyer asked for, proposing a “first-time offender waiver.” Judge Darvas said that request was a surprise, as she hadn’t received the standard pre-sentencing report from the lawyer, who went on to say that her client had lost his jobs (security and food-delivery driving) while at home under electronic “house arrest” since the charges were filed in January. A cousin spoke briefly to vouch for Yusuf’s character, and then Yusuf spoke: “Please forgive me if you can – I was stupid and ignorant” and, he contended, so afraid afterward that “I didn’t know what to do.”
Facing a courtroom with more than 20 people in the gallery (another two dozen online) and photos of Mr. Mason on easels and benches, Judge Darvas then spoke, saying that Yusuf owed two things: To live a life that would make up for cutting Mr. Mason’s life short, and “a penalty.” She told Yusuf that what he did was “breathtakingly selfish and self-absorbed” and chided him for not taking responsibility “until the police found you.” The judge also acknowledged receiving many community letters and reading them.
It was noted early in the hearing that the 256 days which Yusuf has spent on electronic home monitoring will be applied to the 4-year sentence as “credit for time served.” He will also face a year of community custody (probation) after he is released. Once the proceedings ended, with various paperwork, he was handcuffed and taken out of the courtroom by deputies.