The grief-stricken parents of Devesh Samtani, an 18-year-old vacationer who was killed by a hit-and-run driver in Amagansett last year, have flown from their home in Hong Kong to attend what they hope will be the sentencing of the man who struck their son and fled the scene in August 2021.
So far, the victim’s father Kishore Samtani and his attorney Omar Almanzar-Paramio, Esq. are quick to point out that the driver, 20-year-old Westchester and Montauk resident Daniel Campbell, who was 19 at the time of the crash, has not spent a single day in jail since the accident last August, or his since his indictment in January.
Samtani was in town enjoying time off with his cousin and a friend before beginning his studies at New York University when he was hit outside a large party that police had broken up on a particularly dangerous stretch of Old Stone Highway near the corner of Eastwood Court at 11:35 p.m. on August 10, 2021. The driver, Campbell, had nine other passengers in his Honda Pilot heading northbound when he crashed into Samtani and, instead of stopping, left the scene and allegedly made efforts to avoid detection by switching vehicles before two of his passengers reported him to police and he was arrested at home about two hours later.
Meanwhile, Samtani was hospitalized in Southampton and then Stony Brook where he succumbed to his injuries three days later on August 13.
Campbell pleaded not guilty, and on January 5 of this year a Suffolk grand jury indicted him on a felony count of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death. He faces up to 7 years in prison, but according to the Samtani family’s attorney, Almanzar-Paramio, the District Attorney’s office is asking for a sentence of 1–3 years of prison. The judge is also considering a lighter punishment of 5 years of probation with community service.
“I believe that he had no remorse, he always knew that he killed my son and he tried to hide, he tried to run, he tried to escape, so I expect at least a 1–3-year sentence so that these things don’t happen again,” Kishore Samtani said on Monday as he made his way from Hong Kong to New York with hopes to find justice for his son in Suffolk County court on Friday. “Because otherwise everybody would just hit and run.”
Campbell’s defense attorney, Edward Burke Jr., has stated that he does indeed feel remorse and has characterized the incident as a terrible accident on what he described in The Southampton Press as “a very dangerous roadway” where another teen, Jeffrey Ahn Jr., was killed in broad daylight nine years earlier.
Almanzar-Paramio would hear none of that. “When it comes to the criminal act of what the defendant is being charged with, it has nothing to do with the streets, the roads, the layouts, the lack of a shoulder, the lack of lighting or no sidewalk,” the Samtanis’ attorney said on Monday. “It has everything to do with once the defendant hit Devesh what were his actions? He decided multiple times, instead of staying to assist in exchanging information and getting police to help Devesh, he left,” Almanzar-Paramio continued. “What I’m sure Kishore would like to have engrained in everyone’s mind is, if you get into an accident, if you hit somebody, stop, try to help, get the police and make sure you stick around to assist in any way you can. That’s really the crime here, it’s in the fleeing, not the accident. It’s in the fleeing.”
When asked if he’d like to see Campbell go away for the maximum 7 years, Kishore Samtani, a manufacturer of various “As Seen on TV” gadgets in Hong Kong, seemed to suggest he’d be satisfied with 3 years, but he was adamant that his son’s killer should see consequences in the form of jail time — and he expects nothing less.
“I don’t believe that he won’t be sentenced. He has to get some time,” Samtani said. “Because how is it possible he runs and does not serve any time? Then there’s something wrong with the system, I believe.”
Devesh Samtani, according to his father, “was a very friendly and down-to-earth person” who made many friends, loved math and enjoyed work supporting charities, including frequent balls and fundraisers for Mothers’ Choice, which serves children without families and pregnant teenagers of limited means in Hong Kong.
Not long before his death, the young man had written and published a children’s book, Ash’s Covid-19 Birthday Bash, that aimed to help kids better understand the COVID-19 pandemic and improved hygiene.
His devastated family, including mother Mala and older brothers Kunal, 31, and Viren, 23, set up a foundation in Devesh’s name and a memorial scholarship at NYU, where he was to attend school. That scholarship has already been issued to 40 students.
Almanzar-Paramio points out that the judge has discretion not to pass down a sentence on Friday. “On Friday, assuming the defendant pleads guilty, the judge could sentence him immediately or could adjourn to reconsider his prior commitment on sentencing. It’s completely up to the judge,” he explained.
In the meantime, Kishore and Mala Samtani must wait and see.
“I just want justice for my son,” Kishore said.