Muskingum County Prosecutor
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, October 18, 2022
Man sentenced to decade in prison for drunken crash with children
Saalih Abdullah Tawwab El Muhammad, 38, of Cleveland, appeared in front of Judge Mark Fleegle in Muskingum County Common Pleas Court Monday to answer for charges related to a July traffic crash on Interstate 70.
On the day of his offense, Muhammed picked up three children under the age of six from their homes in the Steubenville, Ohio area. Three hours later, Muhammad and the children passed through Zanesville via Interstate 70. Various travelers called the highway patrol to report that Muhammed was driving erratically and at greater than 100 miles per hour in the construction area.
By the time Trooper Dylan King arrived on scene, Muhammad had crashed his car. After crashing, he crawled out of the vehicle and attempted to put distance between himself and the car. Passersby took on the task of securing and comforting the three-year-old, who had injuries requiring hospitalization, the six-year old, who also suffered hospitalization injuries, and the five-year-old, who was less seriously injured. All three children were abandoned at the scene by Muhammad.
When questioned by Trooper King, Muhammad denied knowing the children at all. He denied driving the children, who were all unsecured during the wreck, in the vehicle. He stated that he had “never seen” the children before “in his life.”
Troopers were not confused, however. They investigated and found Muhammed was driving under the influence of drugs and/or alcohol. The troopers also discovered Muhammed's marijuana in the vehicle and presented the case to the Muskingum County Prosecutor’s Office for charges.
Muhammad ultimately pleaded guilty to two counts of aggravated vehicular assault with serious physical harm, felonies of the third degree, two counts of child endangering by operating a vehicle while intoxicated resulting in harm, felonies of the fifth degree, one count of child endangering by operating a vehicle while intoxicated, a misdemeanor of the first degree, and one count of operating a vehicle while intoxicated, a misdemeanor of the first degree.
Assistant Prosecuting Attorney Molly Martin, who handled the case, argued that the sentence on the counts of aggravated vehicular assault should be served consecutively, or one after the other. She cited Muhammad's criminal history, which included many convictions for serious crimes in multiple other jurisdictions in Ohio, which were met with minimal sanctions.
Muhammad’s attorney argued for a sentence of two to three years and told the court that he wasn’t intentionally denying the children, but was merely so intoxicated that he got confused.
Judge Fleegle appeared to agree with the State's position, sentencing Muhammad to a maximum, consecutive sentence of 10 years in prison, five each on both of the felonies of the third degree. The time is mandatory, meaning that it must be served day-for-day and is not eligible for reduction.
The crime of aggravated vehicular assault is a special type of felony of the third degree, referred to as a “high tier” felony three. This type of offense can carry punishment up to 60 months, where a “low tier” felony of the third degree has a maximum sentence of 36 months.
Follow the Muskingum County Prosecutor’s Office on Facebook for the most current and complete information.