Maryland pizza store owner sentenced to 20 years for drunken crash that killed Army veteran
The Capital April 20, 2022
(Tribune News Service) — An Anne Arundel Circuit Court judge chided the owner of Champs Pizza as he sentenced the Glen Burnie restaurateur Tuesday for manslaughter and drunken driving offenses stemming from a 2021 crash that led to the death of a U.S. Army veteran.
“It seems like you’re blaming everybody but yourself,” Judge Michael Wachs said to Guarav “Sonny” Rawal, who pleaded guilty in December to charges that followed a drunken crash Feb. 8, 2021 on Route 10 in Glen Burnie that killed 37-year-old Anthony Jean-Louis, a retired cryptologic network warfare specialist for the U.S. Army.
Wachs sentenced Rawal to 30 years in state prison, with 10 years suspended. Rawal had pleaded guilty to negligent manslaughter, driving under the influence, and failing to remain at the scene of an accident involving death. Police say he had been driving over 100 mph and using multiple phone apps while intoxicated when he struck the rear of a vehicle driven by Jean-Louis, instantly killing him. Bloodied in the wreck, Rawal proceeded to run away from the scene, offering to pay passers-by for a ride, prosecutors said. He was arrested later that night.
With members of his restaurant staff in attendance, Rawal attempted to apologize to Jean-Louis’ family.
“There’s nothing I can do that can change the way you feel about me,” Rawal said.
Prosecutor Carolynn Grammas showed a different view of Rawal, based on recorded jail calls and interviews, where he blamed others — including Jean-Louis — for the crash.
“People act like I took that man’s life; no, that man took my life,” Rawal said in a September call from jail, where he said he was “getting blamed” for the accident.
In another call recorded hours after the crash, which was played in court, he told his wife, who he had been arguing with over the phone during the crash, that he had “thrown away” his life for her.
“This was clearly a brutal, violent and shocking loss to everyone,” said Andre “AJ” Jean-Louis, the victim’s younger brother. He said Rawal lacked values of responsibility, integrity and compassion — “Army values.”
“I’m very thankful it was my brother and not a family of four, or parents going home to their children, or a school football team after winning their last game of the season,” he said.
Rawal’s lawyer, Baltimore attorney Andrew White, told Wachs that the pizza shop owner held “deep, unmitigated sorrow” for the incident and had pleaded guilty to avoid putting Jean-Louis’ family through a trial. He said Rawal was an “incredibly charitable, kind person,” citing backpack drives and community events he had run in the past.
Expressing condolences to Jean-Louis’ family, Wachs said that while Rawal had made “admirable” community efforts, aggravating factors in the case outweighed anything that would lead to a lower sentence. He cited Rawal’s long history of traffic offenses, two previous DUI convictions and multiple times he had circumvented his in-vehicle ignition interlock device.
Rawal remains in custody.
“You kind of treated [probation] as a joke,” said Wachs, who also noted Rawal had “bolted” from the scene of the crash and has accrued violations while in the county jail. In addition to his prison sentence, Wachs ordered for Rawal to stay on five years of probation where he will be required to wear an ankle monitor that can detect alcohol use.
“We were very pleased with the judge’s sentence,” State’s Attorney Anne Colt Leitess said outside the county Circuit Courthouse in Annapolis, alongside Jean-Louis’ family. She said Rawal needed to be removed from the community “to protect others.”
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