A millionaire trader who was building a secret bomb shelter and tunnels under his home in Bethesda, Maryland, was sentenced on Monday to nine years in prison for the death of a worker caught in what prosecutors had described as a "death trap".
During a nearly three-hour sentencing hearing, Daniel Beckwitt, 28, was described as brilliant, obsessive, idiosyncratic, indifferent and someone who "totally misses out". empathy "towards others.
"I can not imagine what you could have done if you had considered altruistic needs," said Margaret Schweitzer, Montgomery County Circuit Judge, explaining how Beckwitt could have used her advanced computer skills to help people with disabilities find their way. communicate or help the country to protect itself from hacking attacks.
Beckwitt is a former student of electrical engineering at the university, many years ago, became obsessed with the threat of North Korea and missile strikes, said his lawyer, Robert Bonsib, in court. Beckwitt did not want to hire professional subcontractors to build his bunker, according to preliminary testimony, because he wanted to keep the project secret.
So he hired people, including Askia Khafra, 21, whom Beckwitt met after investing money in the Khafra project. According to testimonies, Khafra worked for long periods and slept in the tunnels.
In September 2017, Khafra was working in the tunnels when an accidental electrical fire broke out in the basement above him. Khafra felt the smoke, climbed up and tried to escape from the basement. But he was invaded by smoke, struggling to survive and being burned, according to testimony at the April trial, in which Beckwitt was convicted of "depraved heart" second-degree murder.
In rendering the verdict, the jurors determined that Beckwitt had acted with "extreme contempt for human life".
"The acts and omissions that led to the death of (Khafra) were criminal acts," Schweitzer told Beckwitt when sentencing, "but not intentional".
The parents, relatives and friends of Khafra spoke with emotion on Monday of his kindness and warm nature. Schweitzer understood it.
"By all accounts, Askia Khafra has been one of the lights of our community," said the judge. "To love, to give, authentic, intelligent, loyal. He was also a dreamer. "
At the time of the conviction, Askia Khafra's father, Dia Khafra, remembered the afternoon almost two years ago when three policemen arrived at his home in Silver Spring. He introduced them into the living room. We end up saying, as gently as possible: "Mr. Khafra. We have reason to believe that your son Askia was burned to death during a fire in a house in Bethesda, "according to Dia Khafra's recollections.
He said that he had retired to be alone in his kitchen. As he told Schweitzer, a phrase he had often used in times of stress, "that too must pass", was not the size of the sudden, overwhelming pain inside.
This time, the persuasive thought in the fabric of my mind was, "This is how it had to end. That's how it ended. "
His wife Claudia called by chance, unaware of what had happened. He told her to go home urgently. Detective Michelle Smith held her hand while telling her what happened.
Claudia Kahfra also spoke in court.
One of her most vivid memories: how Askia would greet her at the end of the day.
"Hi Mom, I love you, Mom," he said with a smile, "she said." Or ask, "How was your mom's day?"
Beckwitt also spoke, asking Khafra's parents to say that their son "was really an exceptional young man. He was intelligent and selfless.
Beckwitt said that he had tried to save Khafra. "I really tried to save Askia," he said. "The smoke just got too thick for me to find it before my vision erased. I became dizzy, weak and too lucid to continue.
And Beckwitt said he was sorry, while acknowledging that the word was terribly inadequate in response to their grief.
"One simply can not use words," Beckwitt said, "the magnitude of the losses suffered here."