Hate-Crime Count in Shayan Mazroei Slaying May Make It Harder to Win a Conviction: DA
Shayan Mazroei, R.I.P.
UPDATE NO. 4, SEPT. 29, 10:08 A.M.: The family of the late Shayan Mazroei, local Iranian-Americans and Iranian-American rights groups urged local authorities to investigate the 22-year-old's slaying as a hate crime on Monday, but the lead prosecutor in the case says that may compromise his ability to win a murder conviction.
At a press conference in Irvine, Neama Rahmani, the Mazroei family attorney, said of murder suspect Craig Tanber, "What I can say is [he] is a known white supremacist. He has gang tattoos, so his thoughts on Iranian-Americans are clear. "We are still investigating his comments ... and his motivation, but I think it's a fair assumption to say that he and his girlfriend do not hold Iranian-Americans in high esteem and in fact (that) may have been a motivation for the murder." But Senior Deputy District Attorney Larry Yellin says it remains unclear what sparked the conflict between Tanber and Mazroei. "It started off as people talking in a bar and it got out of hand, which sometimes happens in bars," Yellin told City News Service's Paul Anderson. A female, but non-romantic friend of Tanber's was first talking with Mazroei before it quickly devolved with her hurling racial insults and spitting in his face, according to Yellin, who added the victim spit back in her face. Tanber "wasn't even present" for the initial exchange, and even if it could be proven she relayed everything to suspect later Yellin would still have to prove the defendant killed Mazroei because of this ethnicity, he said. "It's not possible for me to make that connection legally," Yellin said. Meanwhile, convicting Tanber of a hate crime would not make much of a difference in his punishment given that he already faces 76 years to life in prison as a third striker, said the prosecutor, calling a hate-crime count in this instance "legally insignificant." Yellin did add he understands why including a hate-crime count is important to Mazroei's family, friends and activists, "but it doesn't mean that I can prove it." He does believe he has a strong case for murder, but adding a hate crime to the mix might lead to problems gaining a conviction and pose issues later with appeals. "It would still be a foolish idea (to prosecute it with a hate-crime count)," Yellin said, "because it wouldn't be a strong case and it would compromise the possibility of a verdict."
UPDATE NO. 3, SEPT. 28, 10:58 A.M.: The family of the late Shayan Mazroei is scheduled to hold a press conference at noon today to urge local authorities to investigate the 22-year-old's slaying as a hate crime--and they will be joined by local Iranian-Americans and Iranian-American rights groups to make that plea. Representatives of the National Iranian American Council (NIAC) and Iranian Alliances Across Borders (IAAB) say they will attend the noontime gathering at 2955 Main St., Irvine, as well as participate in a candlelight vigil honoring Mazroei at 6 p.m. outside the Orange County District Attorney's office (OCDA) in Santa Ana. The OCDA previously said there was no evidence the Iranian-American college student was slain as the result of a hate crime, although prosecutors did not rule out adding such a charge if such evidence does emerge. Mazroei's family and the organizers of today's events says eyewitness accounts suggest that the murder was motivated by hate, as his friends alleged the altercation began with racist insults hurled at the young man. "This tragic incident reflects the broader problem of bigotry and racism in the United States, and highlights the rise of discrimination and hate crimes against people of Middle Eastern descent," says Elham Khatami, NIAC's National Outreach director, in an event announcement. "As we mourn Shayan's passing, we urge prosecutors to take motive into consideration with the hope that Shayan is granted the justice he so deserves." A coalition of civil rights, faith and advocacy groups--including NIAC, IAAB, Friends Committee on National Legislation, and the Council on American Islamic Relations--also submitted a letter to the Department of Justice this week, urging the agency to undertake an open and rigorous federal hate crime investigation into the killing of Mazroei. "It is a tragedy that such a senseless act of violence has resulted in the loss of life of a young Iranian-American man," states the letter. "Reports that such violence was committed as a direct result of Mr. Mazroei's Iranian heritage are a painful reminder that racism, bigotry, and extremism persist in our day and age. We hope that the U.S. Department of Justice will join us ... by making a commitment to eradicate bias-motivated crimes and send a clear message to the American people that minority communities should not be left feeling vulnerable or isolated as a result of such acts of violence occurring in our communities."
UPDATE NO. 2, SEPT. 16, 10:37 A.M.: The prosecutor who is trying to send avowed white supremacist Craig Tanber away for the rest of his life disagrees with family and friends of 22-year-old murder victim Shayan Mazroei that the slaying was a hate crime. At a recent vigil outside Mazroie's Laguna Niguel home, his girlfriend Madelyn Leggard reportedly told KTLA/Channel 5, "It was a racist act" in reference to the fatal stabbing. George Hansell, who was at Patsy's Irish Pub the night of the stabbing, told the station a female who was with Tanber said of 22-year-old Mazroie, "'I don't like that guy.' I'm like, 'which guy,' and she said 'That Iranian.' I don't want to use the word that she said." But Senior Deputy District Attorney Larry Yellin told City News Service no evidence has surfaced showing race played a factor in Tanber allegedly punching and stabbing Mazroei twice in the upper chest area. Tanber's female friend said something rude to Mazroei, the victim came back with a response Tanber did not like and the two went outside to settle it, according to Yellin. Susan Kang Schroeder, chief of staff at the Orange County District Attorney's Office, told San Clemente Patch's Paige Austin that should evidence of a hate crime come to light, charges against Tanber can be amended. Right now he faces a murder count with sentencing enhancements for the personal use of a knife and prior strike convictions for voluntary manslaughter, residential burglary and serving a prison term for one year or more and not remaining free for more than five years. If Yellin wins a conviction, Tanber could return to state prison for up to 76 years. It is, of course, a position Tanber has been in before: He was facing life without the possibility of parole in the April 4, 2004, white gang beating death of 26-year-old Cory Lamons in Huntington Beach. Tanber struck a plea deal after a mistrial that had him copping to voluntary manslaughter, dissuading a witness by force, street terrorism and assault with a deadly weapon or force likely to produce great bodily injury and a sentencing enhancement for doing so to benefit a street gang. He was sentenced to 13 years in prison. Currently in jail in lieu of $1 million bail, Tanber had his arraignment Monday for Mazroei's slaying rescheduled to Oct. 2.
Did Craig Tanber commit a hate-crime murder?
Courtesy of Orange County Sheriff's Department
UPDATE NO. 1, SEPT. 10, 9:36 A.M.: "Got Him!!!!!!" proclaims the Facebook page of Patsy's Irish Pub in Laguna Niguel as white supremacist Craig Tanber was arrested at a Westminster motel this morning in connection with 22-year-old Shayan Mazroei's slaying at the bar last week. Orange County Sheriff's Department SWAT officials surrounded a Motel 6 at sunrise and evacuated guests in adjoining rooms before taking "Tanber into custody without incident of injuries," according to Lt. Jeff Hallock, the sheriff's spokesman. "Tanber was arrested at approximately 6:15 a.m. ... after investigators obtained information he was staying at the Motel 6 at 13100 Goldenwest St., Westminster. SWAT operators made entry into the motel room and safely took Tanber into custody." Hallock reportedly told the Orange County Register before releasing a statement to the Weekly that, "We developed some information in the last 12 hours that led us to that motel on Goldenwest." The Reg also reported Tanber was with a woman but not the one he was with at Patsy's Irish Pub. Hallock says Tanber will be booked into the Orange County Jail on charges of murder and held on $1 million bail pending a scheduled court appearance Tuesday. Meanwhile, detectives are still working the case and ask anyone with additional information to call Orange County Sheriff's Department's Homicide Unit at 714.647.7055 or 714.647.7000. Anonymous tips may also be submitted to Orange County Crime Stoppers at 855.847.6227 (855-TIP-OCCS), via occrimestoppers.org or by texting to 274637 (C-R-I-M-E-S) from a cell phone. (All text messages should begin with the letters "OCCS".)
Patsy's Facebook page has turned into a respectful resource for information on services for Mazroei, fund-raising for his family and a reward for Tanber's capture. The funeral is scheduled for 10 a.m. Sunday at O'Connor Mortuary in Laguna Hills. Shayan is to be laid to rest at noon at El Toro Memorial Park. If you'd like to help contribute, click on this gofundme link.
You can't see Craig Tanber's PEN1 tattoo in this shot.
Courtesy of Orange County Sheriff's Department
ORIGINAL POST, SEPT. 8, 9:43 A.M.: "A documented gang member with a significant criminal history," and who should be considered armed and dangerous, is being sought for the stabbing murder of a 22-year-old Laguna Niguel man Monday, according to Orange County Sheriff's Department spokesman Lt. Jeff Hallock. How significant? Suspect Craig Tanber was previously arrested for the murder of an OC man in 2004.
For reasons not yet clear, a fight broke out at Patsy's Irish Pub, 28971 Golden Lantern St., Laguna Niguel after midnight Monday, when Shayan Mazroei was stabbed. He was taken to Mission Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, Hallock said.
Tanber, the suspect in the stabbing, frequents the South County area and Huntington Beach. He is described as 37, white, 6-foot-1, 190 pounds, with brown hair, hazel eyes and numerous tattoos covering his body.
Among them is a tattoo for PEN1--the white power prison gang--near his clavicle, which you can make out among the shots on his Facebook page.
Huntington Beach police were conducting an undercover investigation on April 6, 2004, when they stopped a truck in Riverside County. When officers searched the vehicle, they discovered the body of Cory Lamon, a 26-year-old who was wrapped and hidden under some wood. Eight people who were either in the truck or a second vehicle following it were arrested on suspicion of murder, including Tanber, who resided in Rossmoor at the time.
As R. Scott Moxley reported in "White Power With a Lisp", Billy Joe Johnson was sentenced to 45 years to life in state prison for ambush and killing Huntington Beach resident Lamon with a rusty steel claw hammer.
Tanber, who was accused of being among the youthful followers on their way to bury the body in the Inland Empire, went free on a mistrial, the Orange County Register reported at the time.
But television news stations are reporting that Tanber was recently released from prison. That explains why Nicole Thompson writes on his Facebook page July 23, "Glad to see you are finally home;)"
Anyone with information regarding Tanber's whereabouts is warned not to approach or contact him but instead call 9-1-1 or sheriff's homicide investigators at 714.647.7055 or 714.647.7000. Anonymous tips can be left with with Orange County Crime Stoppers at 855.847.6227 (855-TIP-OCCS), via occrimestoppers.org or by texting to 274637 (C-R-I-M-E-S) from a cell phone. (All text messages should begin with the letters "OCCS".)
Get the ICYMI: Today's Top Stories Newsletter
Catch up on the day's news and stay informed with our daily digest of the most popular news, music, food and arts stories in Orange County, delivered to your inbox Monday through Friday.