The Telltale Paint
Evidence seems to support Kamran Mashayekhi's story of being attacked in a Buena Park garage, but did it happen for the reasons he says?
Kamran Mashayekhi, the self-proclaimed snitch who was featured in two Los Angeles Times columns and a Weekly cover story after claiming to be marked for death by Mexican gangsters, says the key to the case against a man accused of terrorizing him is a "woman of the streets" named "Angela."
In two columns authored by the Times' Dana Parsons, Mashayekhi, 66, claimed he was lured to a Buena Park home on Nov. 29, 2007, by a caller to his unlisted chauffeur business. When he arrived to pick up his fare, Mashayekhi alleges, two men locked him in a garage, Tasered him, hit his hands with a hammer and spray-painted them orange, threatened to kill him, and stole his wallet. According to the diminutive Iranian-born former taxi driver, Angela had previously told the men he was a snitch.
Testimony and evidence presented at a May 6 preliminary hearing seem to support Mashayekhi's allegations that he was assaulted in the garage. However, whether he was attacked because he was a snitch and whether he had a pre-existing relationship with his accused attacker are unclear. Subpoenaed phone records show multiple calls from Mashayekhi's phone to one of his alleged attackers, Gilbert Carrillo, before the incident.
As of press time, the only man arrested, 27-year-old Carrillo, of Anaheim, was scheduled to stand trial for the felony charges of kidnapping, robbery and criminal threats. During the hearing, the burly Carrillo—dressed in a blue silk shirt, his short black hair glistening with gel—stared straight ahead or down at the table, but rarely in the direction of his accuser.
Mashayekhi said inconsistencies between his testimony and the cell-phone records could be explained by the presence of Angela, one of his regular rides. Mashayekhi told the Weekly in February that she is on parole for drug violations (see "Taken for a Ride," Feb. 21). The Weekly has been unable to verify Mashayekhi's claims.
Police agencies refused to either confirm or deny Mashayekhi's activities as a confidential informant, citing policy. Further investigation by the Weekly showed that Mashayekhi had been arrested in 2002 for being under the influence of methamphetamines. The charges were dropped.
During the hearing, Carrillo's attorney, Alan Thomas, who had subpoenaed Mashayekhi's Verizon phone bills, grilled him on the inconsistencies.
Mashayekhi—breathlessly and in a heavy accent—stuck to his story: The calls were made by Angela, including ones as late as 1 a.m. Mashayekhi said he commonly lets customers use his cell phone.
"She used my phone all the time because he [sic] was out of minutes," Mashayekhi said.
Commissioner Ronald E. Klar, who presided over the hearing, interrupted, "I'm sorry, but you sometimes refer to a 'she' and sometimes a 'he'—is this the same person?"
"Yes," Mashayekhi said, "but she is so big you would think she was a man."
A snicker rippled through the courtroom. The moment of levity was one of several times Mashayekhi seemed to deflect any momentum Thomas tried to build.
"Why, on Nov. 29, the day you say my client called you and tricked you into coming to his home, do your cell-phone records show that there is no call to you from his phone?" There were, however, several calls from Mashayekhi's phone to Carrillo's, he said.
Klar didn't seem to think the questioning was leading anywhere. "[Mashayekhi] has answered these questions ad nauseam," he warned. "You need to move on."
Prosecutor Carol Henson then called her only other witness, Officer Jesse Alfonzo, a five-year veteran of the Buena Park Police Department, who interviewed Mashayekhi and searched Carrillo's garage after the alleged incident.
"[Mashayekhi] was speaking very rapidly; he was a little out of breath. He was very animated, and his clothes were disheveled," Alfonzo said. Mashayekhi's brow was cut and had dried blood on it, and his face had a little redness, Alfonzo testified. Mashayekhi's hands had been painted orange, he said, but they didn't look like they had been hit with a hammer.
When Alfonzo inspected Carrillo's garage, he found evidence supporting an attack—including overspray from orange paint on the floor and on the arms of a chair—and he verified that Mashayekhi's description of the garage was accurate.
The officer did not find the Taser, the hammer, Mashayekhi's stolen personal items or the second alleged attacker. Alfonzo said that after Carrillo had been read his Miranda rights, he told the officer that Mashayekhi had not been kidnapped, but "went voluntarily."
The defense called only one witness: Carrillo's wife, Diana. The petite, soft-spoken woman said she had been at her mother's the day of the alleged assault. But, she said, she had seen Mashayekhi before.
Although Mashayekhi testified he had never seen Carrillo before the assault or been to his home, Diana Carrillo said she saw Mashayekhi standing in her driveway about a week earlier.
"He seemed kind of lost, and he had a piece of paper in his hand," Diana Carrillo said. "I thought he must be looking for the neighbors."
In his closing argument, Thomas stressed the phone-bill discrepancies, the absence of some physical evidence from Carrillo's home, and Diana Carrillo's assertion that Mashayekhi had been to the house before. Thomas also said Mashayekhi's claim that Carrillo was trying to get back at him for snitching years ago was not credible. "If you even try to connect the dots in the most loose way, it doesn't make any sense," Thomas said.
In the end, Thomas' arguments didn't sway Klar from scheduling the case for a jury trial. "The credibility of this witness [Mashayekhi] is not in doubt by this court," Klar said. "There wasn't much of anything I noticed that would make me raise my eyebrow and doubt his truthfulness."
The orange paint in the garage and on Mashayekhi's hands and Carrillo's curious statement that Mashayekhi "went voluntarily" were the prosecution's strongest evidence, he said.
"That statement puts Carrillo right in the garage," Klar said. "It all ties into one neat package."
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In a subsequent interview, Thomas noted that the standard of evidence in a preliminary hearing is very low. Mashayekhi's testimony will not hold up to scrutiny in a jury trial, Thomas said.
The DA's office declined to comment for this story.
Carrillo was scheduled to be arraigned on May 14 at the Central Justice Center in Santa Ana.