Calling the case 'nightmarish,' Judge James Schreier sentenced AIDS activist and former City of Chicago worker Michael Jackson to 15 years in prison for the murder of taxi driver Haroon Paryani. The sentencing took place Sept. 20 at the Criminal Courts Building at 26th and California.
On Feb. 4, 2005, Paryani and Jackson became embroiled in an argument over cab fare. The situation culminated with Jackson running over Paryani three times with the driver's own vehicle. On Aug. 20, 2006, a jury of nine women and three men found the defendant guilty of second-degree murder.
'After all these years, I thought nothing could surprise me,' Schreier opined. 'However, this nightmarish case is nothing less than shocking.'
In determining the sentence, the judge weighed the impact letters sent by people on behalf on the victim and the defendant as well as the testimonies of witnesses that the state called earlier on Wednesday. In reaching his decision, Schreier said that ' [ t ] his wasn't a loss of judgment. The defendant was consumed completely by rage.' At one point the judge asked 'what manner of man' runs over someone multiple times, acknowledging that this particular issue was the 'salient factor' in deciding 'a sentence that fit the crime and the criminal.'
Cook County Assistant State's Attorney Mercedes Luque-Rosales implored Schreier to impose the maximum sentence of 20 years, stating that Jackson would probably ( with good conduct and time already served ) be imprisoned seven to eight years 'for running over an unarmed man.' Thomas Breen, Jackson's attorney, contended that Jackson did not set in motion the events that ultimately resulted in Paryani's death. In addition, Breen said that his client was 'out of control not out of anger, but out of fear.'
Among the witnesses the state called during the hearing was Susan McNamara, a nurse who claimed that Jackson attacked her at Good Samaritan Hospital after he was admitted there for a suicide attempt ( overdose ) in August of 2005. She told the court that Jackson swung at her at one point and later spat at her, with him allegedly saying, 'Here's some AIDS for you, you f--king bitch, ' However, Breen got her to admit that she knew that she would not be infected unless the saliva made contact with an open wound. When Breen asked her if she had a wound, McNamara responded that she could not recall.
Another witness was an inmate at DuPage County Jail, where Jackson is currently awaiting trial for the Good Samaritan incident. While he admitted that he put Jackson's penis in his mouth, he also added that the defendant did not tell him that he was infected with HIV or hepatitis. The inmate also said that it was done as a joke in front of several fellow prisoners and that Jackson never reached orgasm.
However, it was the third witness who was probably the most effective. Amir Paryani, the victim's hearing-impaired son, signed his impact letter while a sign-language interpreter simultaneously read the missive aloud to the courtroom. The son called Haroon 'a man of faith, respect and kindness' as well as an 'unforgettable person.' He added that his father 'will never be able to come to our graduations and see us be successful people.' Amir also said that Haroon 'wished for me to hear him singing in his own voice before he died.' At this point, the son broke down on the stand while his family also wept.
Before being sentenced, Jackson himself made a brief statement, his khaki Department of Corrections outfit a stark contrast to the dark suit he sported when he jury delivered its verdict. He commented how he was dedicated to saving lives and that 'what happened [ that night ] was tragic to both families. I would never intentionally harm someone.'
After being sentenced, John C., Jackson's partner, left the building along with other supporters. However, Mayer Becker, a family friend, read a prepared statement. 'Mike Jackson continues to maintain his innocence,' he read. 'He deeply regrets that Haroon Paryani lost his life. However, the court did not fully consider the physical violence [ that took place that night ] . As his friends know, Mike has a kind and compassionate heart. ... Mike wants to thank those who stood by him.'