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Saturday, November 19, 2005

Saudi royal gets year in Vineyard jail

In a plea deal that infuriated the victim's family, a Suffolk Superior Court judge sentenced a distant member of the Saudi royal family to one year in a prison on Martha's Vineyard yesterday after he admitted driving drunk when he struck and killed Orlando Ramos on a downtown Boston street. Prince Bader al-Saud pleaded guilty to motor vehicle homicide while drunk, a misdemeanor, before Judge Christine McEvoy. The 23-year-old admitted he was driving a BMW sport utility vehicle on Oct 29, 2002, that slammed into Ramos, 37, as he was crossing Charles Street around 2:40 a.m. near the intersection with Boylston Street.

While Saud's defense lawyers and Suffolk prosecutors said the plea deal was just, relatives of Ramos, led by his sister Reyita Ramos, harshly criticized the sentence and the decision to send Saud out of Suffolk County to serve his sentence at the Dukes County House of Correction. Ordinarily, Saud would likely have served his sentence at the Suffolk County House of Correction in Roxbury, where more than a thousand prisoners are housed. In court, Ramos called the sentence a ''slap in the face" and pointed out that Saud had earned a master's degree from Boston University while free on bail.

''You have received in this process so many privileges because of who you are," she said. ''You received your degree from a great university, while we as a family received a death certificate."

Saud registered .12 on a breath alcohol test, above the legal limit of .08, according to court records. In court papers, Saud's defense lawyers said Ramos's blood alcohol level was .176 and that he had traces of cocaine in his system. They also presented psychiatric records they said showed Ramos had a history of suicidal behavior and had stepped in front of a car one month before he was killed. In court, McEvoy said Saud's position as a prince in his native Saudi Arabia did not influence her. She praised Saud for accepting responsibility and pointed out that he has no prior criminal history since moving to Massachusetts in 1999.

''This is a welcome admission by someone to accept personal responsibility for the crime that he has committed," McEvoy said in court. Saud's royal blood ''means nothing to this court because in this system of justice, every individual is treated the same, no matter what their social status is," she said.

In court papers, Conley's office said there was a possibility that Saud would not be convicted of any crime if the case went to trial, in part because defense lawyers uncovered Ramos's psychiatric history of depression. They also said the one-year sentence matched what other defendants have been given in Suffolk County. In a telephone interview, the Dukes County sheriff, Michael A. McCormack, said he agreed to house Saud in the Edgartown prison because the prince is a slightly built man and could be targeted by gangs in larger prisons because he is from the Middle East.

Source: The Boston Globe

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