Unemployed Irvine resident Amir Hossein Hajisheikhi felt desperation on Nov. 30, 2013, entered a Bank of the West branch, saw two male tellers and–not exactly an impressive physical specimen–chickened out of a plan to commit bank robbery.
But Hajisheikhi later saw a female teller inside a nearby Wells Fargo Bank on Culver Drive, approached demanding $2,000, motioned with his hand in the pocket of his sweatshirt as if he had a gun, and walked out with a wad of 53 $20 bills.
On-the-ball Irvine Police Department (IPD) officers quickly responded to the silent alarm, found wide-eyed Hajisheikhi–who was walking with a huge bulge in his sock–and at gunpoint took him into custody, according to an FBI report reviewed by the Weekly.
At first, the robber denied his crime, claiming the bank teller had given him the $1,060 so he could open an account, but IPD detectives eventually got him to agree the story lacked any correspondence to reality.
This week inside Orange County's Ronald Reagan Federal Courthouse, Assistant United States Attorney Daniel H. Anh noted that Hajisheikhi targeted a female teller because he considered them "more emotional."
Anh said the defendant deserved a punishment of 21 months in prison.
"Beyond the nature and seriousness of the offense, the recommended sentence would serve to protect the public, promote respect for the law, and afford adequate deterrence of future criminal conduct," Anh opined.
But U.S. District Court Judge James V. Selna–a conservative, 2003 appointee of President George W. Bush–didn't want Hajisheikhi, who was born in 1970, to serve another minute in custody.
I can't recall ever covering a case where a bank robber won a sentence of "time served" in pre-sentencing lockup–which, for this defendant, was 10 months–as final punishment, but that's what happened.
Here's a back story: Before immigrating to the U.S., the Iranian-born defendant had been beaten with a bat by nearly two dozen, pro-Ayatollah Khomeini, paramilitary fanatics known as Sazman Basij-e Mostaz'afin (or Basijies) in his country. He'd suffered a broken cheek bone and severe head trauma that ultimately resulted in facial reconstructive surgery. After he fled to Germany, doctors also attributed Hajisheikhi's onset of multiple sclerosis to the beating.
So, the robber who stood in front of Selna had committed no prior crimes, now requires a walker to move, needs incredibly expensive drugs for treatment, wrote an apology letter to the bank teller, enjoys the love of his social worker wife and, according to his defense lawyer, can't stand longer than 20 minutes at a time due to his ailments.
But more cynical readers might believe a factor in releasing Hajisheikhi was to save the U.S. Bureau of Prisons from paying the nearly $5,000 a month needed for his medicine, Copaxone.