A man whose abuse of his young son left the child permanently blind was ordered Monday to serve 17 years in prison.
Adam Yafi, 50, of Stafford County was sentenced by Circuit Judge Charles Sharp to a total of 30 years, with 13 years suspended. Yafi was previously convicted of aggravated malicious wounding and child neglect.
Sharp’s sentence, which came after a nearly five-hour-long sentencing hearing in Stafford Circuit Court, was far short of the life sentence requested by prosecutors Kristin Bird and Ed Lustig. But it exceeded the recommended state sentencing guidelines, which called for a maximum sentence of just over 12 years.
According to the evidence, Yafi was not at home on Jan. 27, 2017, when his aunt came to his home on Sandy Ridge Road and saw the child in terrible condition. Yafi was in the hospital after trying to commit suicide a couple of days earlier by taking a large dose of a diabetes medication.
Yassin Yafi, who was 4 at the time, was rushed to the VCU Medical Center in Richmond to be treated for injuries that included retinal hemorrhaging, severe optic nerve damage, bleeding on the brain, a fractured bone in his back and numerous bruises.
The child was in the hospital for a month. He looked healthy Monday at the Stafford courthouse, but remains blind.
The ensuing investigation resulted in charges against Adam Yafi and the child’s stepmother, Hayat Benfaraj. Benfaraj pleaded guilty to child neglect and was ordered in September 2017 to serve a year and a half in prison.
Both Yafi and Benfaraj blamed the child’s injuries on such things as falling down and banging his head into walls. But medical experts testified that there was no way the child could have inflicted such severe injuries on himself.
The evidence showed that Yassin was in severe distress when Yafi’s aunt showed up at the house that day and called 911. Doctors said that if it weren’t for that call, the boy certainly would have died.
Among those testifying during Monday’s lengthy hearing was Yassin’s mother, Hafida Mouali, who talked about how surprised she was when she was informed that a Stafford judge had given custody of the boy to Yafi in June 2016.
Mouali said she immediately began trying to get the child back and was in a Fairfax courtroom for a scheduled custody hearing when she learned that Yassin was in the hospital.
She said that she was shocked when she saw her son. “He looked like he had been in a boxing match. He’d been tortured,” she said through tears.
Mouali said the boy hates having his father’s last name and still has nightmares about what Yafi had done to him. She said she considers Yafi a “terrorist for doing that to that little boy.”
The boy, now 6, is living with his mother. His younger sister, the daughter of Yafi and Benfaraj, has been adopted by another family.
Several people testified on Yafi’s behalf and two of them, a former male roommate and a former girlfriend, had good things to say about him. One of Yafi’s doctors testified that Yafi told him, “I’ll never be forgiven for what I’ve done.”
Lustig and Bird both pushed for a harsh sentence. “He and he alone is responsible for the severe beating that left his then-4-year-old son blind,” Lustig said. “And barring some medical miracle, he’ll still be blind when his father walks out of prison.”
Defense attorney Ghislaine Storr Burks pointed out that Yafi had no prior felony record and asked Sharp to sentence him within the guidelines. “He deserves to be punished, not buried,” she said.
Prior to receiving his sentence, Yafi made a statement in which he expressed love for his children and asked Sharp for mercy.
“I’m sorry for whatever I’ve done,” Yafi said. “This has been very difficult for me. I never meant to hurt my kid.”
Sharp called Yafi’s actions “appalling” and said “nothing justifies what you did.”