Ismail gets 10 years for vehicular homicide

Sentence handed down over 2 years after crash

-Messenger photo by Elijah Decious
Grandmother Pamela Deardorff, right, comforts Sara Overholtzer Fliehe, mother of vehicular homicide victim David Fliehe, in a sobbing embrace in between victim impact statements at Aisha Ismail’s sentencing hearing. Ismail pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide — reckless driving in the crash that killed David Fliehe, 20, over two years ago.

On Monday, more than two turbulent years after Aisha Ismail’s reckless driving killed a Humboldt man in a 2018 crash, Ismail was sentenced to up to 10 years in prison.

An Iowa State Patrol crash investigation showed that the Fort Dodge woman crashed head-on into victim David Fliehe, 20, as she tried to pass a pickup truck on Webster County Road C56, a two-lane highway. The report estimated she was traveling about 70 mph in a 55 mph zone, crashing in a no passing zone. She was also texting while driving.

Fliehe was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash on July 9, 2018.

First Assistant County Attorney Ryan Baldridge offered a plea agreement to Ismail in June, amending the charge to vehicular homicide by reckless driving, a class C felony, in response to an evidence suppression motion he conceded would have likely been successful.

“This recommendation was not made lightly by the state,” Baldridge said.

-Messenger photo by Elijah Decious
Pamela Deardorff, victim David Fliehe’s grandmother, publicly forgives the woman who killed him, saying she won’t let the tragedy fill her with hate, anger or unforgiveness. Ismail offered no statement to the court during her sentencing hearing Monday — a lack of remorse the judge took into consideration before pronouncing the sentence.

The sentence comes after Ismail, 26, violated the probationary terms for an arson conviction and her pretrial release terms for vehicular homicide. Ismail was initally charged with vehicular homicide by operating while intoxicated, a class B felony.

A urine sample taken from Ismail after she was transported to a Des Moines hospital showed a .101 blood alcohol concentration, above the .08 limit, according to court records. Defense attorney Judd Parker argued a motion to suppress the evidence on several grounds considering the discrepancies between purported facts of the case and the facts an Iowa State Patrol trooper presented to a judge to obtain a search warrant for Ismail’s bodily fluids.

The warrant authorized by a judge permitted a blood draw rather than a urine sample, as requested by the investigating trooper. Parker argued that, per Iowa code, urine specimens are typically authorized after blood withdrawal is refused, which he said Ismail had no opportunity to do.

Parker also alleged that the investigating trooper knowingly made false statements in his warrant application when stating that the defendant had refused to give a specimen, as he had not been in contact with her before she was taken to the hospital from the scene of the accident. The defense attorney argued the trooper did not cite any probable cause of intoxication — slurred speech, beer cans in the vehicle or failed sobriety tests, for example — to warrant either a blood or urine sample from Ismail.

Family members of Fliehe delivering victim impact statements at the sentencing hearing discussed their anger at what they felt was a legal “loophole” the defendant took advantage of, as well as how the investigation was handled.

-Messenger photo by Elijah Decious
Like in many court hearings, the hands of a family anxiously waiting for a verdict or sentence to be pronounced can articulate feelings often not said aloud.

Some on the stand offered forgiveness and others said they were still trying to figure out how to forgive, but most rebuked Ismail for her lack of remorse as she eluded law enforcement for several months over the 28 months in between the crash and her sentencing hearing.

District Court Judge Angela Doyle cited a lack of remorse — Ismail declined to give a statement to the court and showed no discernable reaction to the emotional statements given by Fliehe’s family — in pronouncing the sentence. Doyle’s sentence did not deviate from the plea agreement.

Though the victim was a quiet man, more likely to be heard by the clacking of his keyboard than by his voice, his family said no sentence will be able to fill the void left in his wake. After his death, family members cleaning his room found out he was accepted to Iowa Central Community College — a secret he was saving for the right moment.

Now, they’ll never see him succeed and pass the milestones in life many parents look forward to.

“Aisha, I really struggled with what I needed to say to you to get through to you,” said grandmother Pamela Deardorff, sobbing on the stand as she left her written statement folded. “I’m not going to let my heart be filled with anger and hate and unforgiveness. That is why I’m going to forgive you for what you’ve done to my family.”

-Messenger photo by Elijah Decious
Aisha Ismail, 26, awaits sentencing Monday for vehicular homicide with defense attorney Judd Parker after her reckless driving caused the death of David Fliehe in a 2018 crash.

She only asked that the court show no leniency and that she serve the full length of her sentence to prevent her from hurting someone else behind the wheel of a car for as long as possible.

“To me belongs vengeance and recompense; their foot shall slide in due time: for the day of their calamity is at hand, and the things that shall come on them make haste,” Deardorff said, quoting Deuteronomy 32:35.

Sara Overholtzer Fliehe, David Fliehe’s mother, said that no sentence will be able to make up for the loss of her son, who was “a huge game changer in my life.”

“I pray I find a way to forgive you,” she said. “I don’t know how much time you will get, but I know it won’t be enough.”

Others in the family experience daily reminders at the most mundane times to remind them of the trauma the death inflicted.

“Any time I’m driving and need to pass a vehicle, I have a panic attack and imagine a car being there, even when I check multiple times and see there isn’t,” said Dawn Schwizer, Fliehe’s older sister, through a written statement. “Do you know how frustrating it is to try to remember every detail of a memory, but can’t? Or try to realize the sound of (someone’s) voice or laugh, but can’t?”

She toasted her brother on what would have been his 21st birthday by holding a glass to the sky. David Fliehe was killed before he was old enough to drink.

Ismail’s indeterminate sentence will run consecutive to another sentence she is currently serving for a previous second-degree arson conviction after she started a fire at The Islamic Center, a Des Moines mosque, while two people slept inside in June 2017. Ismail’s sentence for that was suspended, leaving her out of prison when the crash happened.

Ismail could spend up to 20 years in prison with the two sentences.

In addition to the prison sentence, Ismail was ordered to pay $150,000 in restitution to the victim’s estate, which cannot be discharged through bankruptcy.

Ismail will not have a legal right to appeal her conviction through a guilty plea, short of a defect in the plea proceeding.


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