The Los Angeles district attorney’s office dismissed stalking and other charges against an Encino man earlier this month, but prosecutors have refiled the case, saying there is ample evidence to prove the 23-year-old harassed and threatened a police detective.
But Assaf Waknine, who was arrested in April and is now in federal custody awaiting sentencing in another case, maintains that it was he who was victimized, not police. In a telephone interview from jail, Waknine said he believes the charges were initially dismissed because police and prosecutors knew they had no case against him.
But Deputy Dist. Atty. Larry Morrison said Waknine will be brought to trial on the state charges after his federal sentencing. “It was dismissed solely to facilitate his being sentenced in federal court,” Morrison said, while acknowledging that the delay will buy police more time to prepare the case.
“Nothing about this case is ordinary,” Morrison said. “By letting him be sentenced in federal court first, I can be sure I get a consecutive sentence.” Under California law, Waknine’s state sentence would be served in addition to the federal penalty--a condition that would not necessarily apply to a federal sentence if he were convicted in a state court first.
Waknine, the owner of a Studio City telecommunications company, is charged with the following state felonies: stalking and threatening a detective assigned to the Los Angeles Police Department’s organized crime and intelligence unit, attempted extortion, perjury and assaulting a car repossessor. The perjury charge stems from a driver’s license that authorities say Waknine obtained using a false name and birth date.
The charges involving the car repossession were added, prosecutors say, because police uncovered new evidence about that incident. They say Waknine and his younger brother, Hai, attacked the repo man when he tried to claim one of Waknine’s cars.
Waknine vigorously denied all the charges, saying police are unfairly targeting him--as well as his friends and associates--in the belief that he has information about a police informant. Waknine said that information, if released publicly, could unravel hundreds of cases, jeopardize others and possibly lead to criminal charges against police officers themselves.
“I would plead guilty if I had done something,” Waknine said in the interview from the federal detention center. “I’m not going to do anything illegal to the police, to a detective. I’m not stupid.”
Police and prosecutors, however, offer a sharply different view.
They say Waknine mounted an aggressive campaign against Det. Michael Gervais, even cloning his pager number in order to determine who was calling the officer. They say Waknine made a “credible threat” against Gervais, who believed he and his family were in danger.
Waknine said Gervais helped authorities convict him on a credit card case in New York.
It was after that incident, Waknine said, that he uncovered information about an informant, with links to a New York organized crime family, who has helped the LAPD in numerous cases. It was that information, he said, that police did not want released.
“This is all to protect their source,” Waknine said.
Waknine is due to be sentenced on two check forgery charges in federal court later this summer, authorities said. He could serve a maximum of five years per count on those charges.