BY LISA J. HURIASH
In a courtroom scene filled with anger and tears, the young man accused of dragging a woman to death -- leaving her blood, bone, body tissue and clothing littering State Road 7 as he drove -- was sentenced to 30 years in prison Friday.
Abdelaziz Hamze, 25, received the maximum sentence for vehicular homicide as his family gasped and wept.
Prosecutors said Sandra Hall, 44, a mother of two and grandmother of two, was pinned underneath the van driven by Hamze, her remains scattered on State Road 7 from Lauderdale Lakes to North Lauderdale.
But Hamze's defense attorneys said he was acting out of self-defense that day in 2007, protecting himself from Hall. They argued she caused her own death by jumping on top of a moving vehicle.
In hopes of getting a lighter sentence, Hamze took the stand in shackles, and apologized to the Hall family. But the Dania Beach resident said he had committed no crime.
''I will continue to plead my innocence,'' he said. ``I still don't understand the guilty verdict. . . . I seem to be the only one taking the blame for it. Actions greater than my own contributed to it.''
On June 3, 2007, Hamze, a former Florida Atlantic University teaching assistant, rear-ended Hall's prized 1966 Cadillac Deville and then fled. Hall and her boyfriend chased him until they caught up with him at a stoplight. They banged on his car, and then Hall climbed on top of his hood to get him to stay.
He didn't, and drove off with Hall clutching the windshield wipers. She fell and got caught under the car. Hamze went back to his home in Dania Beach, cleaned the blood of the car, switched license plates and flew to New York. There he was arrested aboard a plane bound for Athens, Greece.
Hall's family begged Broward Circuit Judge Andrew Siegel to give Hamze the toughest sentence possible.
''She was the top of our empire,'' said Hall's cousin, Angela Poole in court Friday. ``He crumbled that. She was the queen bee.''
Defense attorney Jeffrey Voluck wanted the judge to know Hall had a criminal history of her own.
''Did you know she was arrested 26 times?'' he asked Poole during cross-examination.
''What does that have to do with her being dead?'' Poole said.
Hall's friend Belinda Lee told the judge Hall was kind, fed the homeless and loved her family.
''Are you aware she was arrested for robbery?'' Voluck asked her.
''Are you aware she was murdered?'' Lee said.
Hamze's family pleaded for mercy. They said he is one of 10 children in a devout Muslim family who were so concerned about negative influences that the parents home-schooled their children. Hamze's siblings are all students, or professionals, including a physician, biomedical teacher and engineer.
Hamze's father, Bilal Hamze, told Siegel he wanted to take blame for his son's actions. He said he never told his children how to act and what to do when in a situation like this and as an immigrant from Lebanon, said he never knew the definition of the English word ''homicide'' until his son's arrest.
''I should be in his place,'' Bilal Hamze said. ``I teach them ethics, morals. I didn't teach him how to deal with this problem. If he's guilty, I'm guilty. I want to teach my other children what's right, what's wrong.''
Siegel, who also awarded the victim's family nearly $5,000 in restitution for funeral expenses and repairing the vintage Cadillac, called the crime an ''egregious homicide'' and recalled how witnesses said Hall's body sounded like a cardboard box being dragged along the street.
''You have two families destroyed,'' Siegel said. He said he was convinced Hamze fled, not because he was scared for his life, but because he didn't have car insurance and had illegal tags.
''He left. And he ran,'' Siegel said. He ran away ``from what his parents taught him.''
Hamze's lawyers said they will appeal the verdict. He is eligible for parole after he serves 85 percent of his sentence, or 25 ½ years.
He was also found guilty of leaving the scene of a fatal accident, which also carried a possible 30-year sentence, but prosecutors said he couldn't be sentenced for that count and vehicular homicide as well.