Trial for BR man accused of orchestrating ex-wife's murder postponed to March 1
BATON ROUGE - The trial for a former Baton Rouge businessman accused of having his ex-wife murdered was pushed back to March 1 after he faced a judge on Monday and said he no longer wants to represent himself, The Advocate reports.
Hamid Ghassemi, a 69-year-old who used to own Import One and Import One Elite on Airline Highway, was slated to stand trial Monday on a first-degree murder charge that would carry a mandatory sentence of life in prison, but after a series of requests for changes to his trial, Ghassemi now says he wants to hire prominent New Orleans lawyer Martin Regan.
In June, Ghassemi fired his former attorneys, Tommy Damico and Brent Stockstill, saying he'd been unhappy with their work on his behalf and stating intentions to represent himself in court.
Then, on September 2, Ghassemi filed a motion to dismiss all charges against him, citing construction fraud and infringement of secured rights as the reason for his request.
Now, the 69-year-old's latest request is to hire Regan as his lead lawyer and act as his co-counsel.
"I need an attorney. The more I read the documents there is no way I can represent myself," Ghassemi requested of state District Judge Tarvald Smith on Monday.
When Prosecutor Dana Cummings argued Ghassemi has no constitutional right to serve as his own co-counsel, Judge Smith agreed but added that Ghassemi does have a right to assist in his defense.
Regan was in the courtroom Monday, but because Ghassemi has not hired him and Regan is not officially his attorney, Regan was no allowed to speak during the hearing. But Regan met with Smith and Cummings in the judge's chambers, and later met with Ghassemi after court.
Smith decided to appoint a lawyer to represent Ghassemi, and if Ghassemi hires Regan or another attorney, he will relieve the appointed lawyer.
According to court documents, Ghassemi is accused of paying three hitmen, Tyler Ashpaugh, Daniel Richter, and Skyler Williams, $10,000 to kill his ex-wife, Taherah Ghassemi.
Taherah was shot in the head on April 11, 2015 and buried in a remote part of St. Helena Parish.
Ashpaugh and Richter told authorities Ghassemi also planned for the hitmen to kill his son, Hamed.
The killing was allegedly to take place on the same night but did not occur because Hamed didn't go straight home after work that night.
Ashpaugh and Richter also claimed the third accused hitman, Skyler Williams, was previously hired to attack Hamed Ghassemi a little more than a month before the killing.
Both Ashpaugh and Richter were convicted through plea deals in 2018.
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