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Driver pleads guilty in New Year's crash that injured four

Abdikadir M. Jaffar

A Somali immigrant who drank enough on New Year's Eve to record a blood-alcohol level nearly three times the legal limit pleaded guilty Friday to aggravated vehicular assault for smashing into a car and a group of pedestrians on Richmond Avenue.

Four people were seriously hurt by the car driven by Abdikadir M. Jaffar, including a young athlete who lost his leg as a result of his injuries. The teenager was on a sidewalk a little after 1 a.m., coming back from watching the ball drop at midnight downtown to usher in 2017.

Jaffar, 31, of Breckenridge Street, was arrested at the scene and was eventually indicted on eight felony counts. He pleaded guilty in Erie County Court to the most serious charge, a felony. In exchange for the plea, Judge Kenneth F. Case agreed to sentence Jaffar to no more than an indeterminate 3 1/3 to 10 years in prison when he returns to court on Nov. 23.

Jaffar could have faced up to 15 years in prison had he gone to trial and been found guilty.

Assistant District Attorney Kelley A. Omel said that Jaffar had a BAC of 0.22 at the time of the crash on Jan. 1. He was driving a 2011 Prius when he struck another car. A passenger in that car, Anabellin Cruz, 20, sustained a concussion.

But Jaffar's vehicle kept going. It went over a curb, snapped off a utility pole and went onto the sidewalk into a group of pedestrians. Nathan Kahn, 16, a City Honors student, lost his left leg above the knee. Benjamin Weigel, 15, of Orchard Park, suffered a concussion and severe back injuries, missing months of school. And Christopher Sheppard, 62, had both legs and his pelvis broken, along with suffering an injured shoulder and concussion.

Attorneys for Jaffar, who reportedly is a devout Muslim, previously said that he did not usually drink alcohol but was encouraged to drink on New Year's without understanding how it would affect him. He was employed at a yogurt company in Utica at the time but was in Buffalo to visit his family. He is married with seven children.

Jaffar came to the United States as a refugee from Somalia in 2006 and became a U.S. citizen in 2012.

After court District Attorney John J. Flynn described Jaffar's conduct on New Year's a "inexcusable," pointing out that the man was incredibly intoxicated.

"It's New Year's, and you know there are a lot of people around," Flynn said. "He not only strikes a vehicle, he then veers off and strikes three pedestrians."

Flynn also said he felt the judge's sentencing range was fair considering the victims' injuries and Jaffar's lack of a criminal record.

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