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Lying Indian driver who fled after mowing down a nurse and later tried to blame her Tesla’s autopilot is jailed for just 9 months

An Indian immigrant who lied to police about her Tesla being on autopilot when she ran down a nurse who was boarding a tram in Melbourne has been sentenced to just nine months’ jail, and will likely avoid deportation as a result.

Sakshi Agrawal, 25, was sentenced in the County Court of Victoria on Friday for smashing into Nicole Lagos, 26, throwing her eight metres into the air and leaving her with serious injuries and permanent brain damage, while driving her Tesla Model 3 through Armadale in 2022.

After the collision Agrawal drove from the scene at 18km over the speed limit, and went home and changed her clothes before returning two hours later with her partner.

She then lied in a police interview, claiming her car was on autopilot, the autobraking function did not detect Ms Lagos, and that the vehicle did not give a collision alert.

But a Victoria Police examination of her car revealed the autosteer function was not active, a vulnerable user was detected in the path of the vehicle, an alert was triggered, and there was no record of a braking response. No mechanical faults were detected in the Tesla.

Judge Peter Rozen noted that Agrawal, a former IT student now in Australia on a bridging visa and seeking to become a permanent resident, was at risk of being deported if given a jail sentence, especially one of 12 months or more.

He said in his sentencing remarks that Agrawal “did not stop to assist as you were required by law and common decency to do” and found that the crash had a “devastating impact” on Ms Lagos and her family.

The young nurse was placed in an induced coma suffering a skull fracture, internal bleeding, rib and leg fractures, lung contusions and liver damage. She required a four-hour operation, was hospitalised for 21 days, suffered post-traumatic amnesia for 30 days, and required rehabilitaion for her ongoing brain injury.

“Ms Lagos states that she is haunted by an ever present uncertainty that she will not be able to fulfil her professional, social and romantic aspirations owing to the effects of her acquired brain injury,” Judge Rozen said.

Agrawal, pleaded guilty to dangerous driving causing serious injury and failing to stop after a motor vehicle accident just two days before her trial was due to start, after spending years trying to fight the charges.

But psychologist Gina Cidoni said in a report prepared for the court that this was due to “avoidance behaviour” caused by PTSD, and Judge Rozen concluded she was genuinely remorseful despite her belated acceptance of legal responsibility.

Ms Cidoni also diagnosed Agrawal with “Adjustment Disorder with a disturbance of mood and anxiety” and testified that imprisonment would be “challenging” for her and could result in worsened mental health.

Agrawal was also assessed by forensic psychiatrist Dr Prashant Pandurangi, who diagnosed her with “Major Depressive Disorder”, which cannot be adequately treated in prison, and “Alcohol Misuse Disorder”.

Judge Rozen accepted Agrawal was at low risk of reoffending and had excellent prospects of rehabilitation, but said only a sentence of imprisonment would suffice to do the gravity of the offence and her moral culpability.

For the dangerous driving charge, which carries a maximum penalty of five years’ jail, he sentenced Agrawal to four months, two of which are to be served cumulatively with a 7 month sentence for failing to stop, which is punishable by up to 10 years.

Judge Rozen disqualified her from driving for four years.

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