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With shouts and tears, man accused of kidnapping, torturing Newport dispensary owner claims he’s been wronged

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Hossein Nayeri is on trial in the 2012 kidnapping of a Newport Beach man and his roommate, during which the man was beaten, tortured and sexually mutilated.
(Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times)

Hossein Nayeri says he has been repeatedly wronged.

He was wronged by the Marine Corps when he was accused of theft, he said in court this week. Nonetheless, he and two other service members were docked two months’ pay and confined to their base for 60 days.

For the record:
5:00 PM, Aug. 07, 2019 A previous version of this article referred to gloves containing Hossein Nayeri’s DNA being found in a van. The evidence was actually a single glove in a truck.

He said he was wronged by Newport Beach police, who he alleged planted a glove with his DNA on it in a truck tied to the kidnapping, torture and sexual mutilation of a Newport Beach man — a crime Nayeri said he had no involvement in. Nonetheless, he is on trial in that case, accused of being part of a plot.

And, he said, he was wronged by a Los Angeles County court that annulled his marriage to ex-wife Cortney Shegerian due to his existing marriage to a woman in Iran. “Based on a bunch of bull!” he said.

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Orange County Superior Court Judge Gregg Prickett ended testimony for the day Tuesday, admonishing the defendant for repeated “shouting.”

Nayeri, 40, who is being tried on charges of kidnapping for ransom, aggravated mayhem, torture and burglary, testified in his case this week, repeatedly straying from giving direct answers to Senior Deputy Dist. Atty. Matt Murphy.

He denied involvement in the 2012 kidnapping that left the Newport Beach man and his female roommate stranded in the desert, rebutted several statements from his ex-wife’s testimony and claimed the Newport Beach Police Department planted the glove containing his DNA.

According to authorities, the kidnappers believed the man, a marijuana dispensary owner, had buried money in the Mojave Desert at a spot where his car had been traced via GPS.

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Nayeri contended he was paid $1,000 a week by Kyle Handley of Fountain Valley — a co-defendant in the case who was found guilty in January 2018 and later sentenced to life in state prison — to conduct surveillance on the man, who owned multiple marijuana dispensaries and allegedly owed Handley a large sum of money for marijuana-related business dealings.

Nayeri testified that his involvement in the matter was limited to surveillance and that he never asked Handley — a high school friend with whom Nayeri managed marijuana grows — what he might do to recoup the money he said he was owed.

“You were involved in a conspiracy to kidnap and rob [the victim] but did not know it?” Murphy asked.

“I don’t even know how to respond with that. Are you serious?” Nayeri said.

He denied any knowledge about arrangements by co-defendants to get rental vehicles or guns, including items Shegerian testified to seeing around their home.

Nayeri’s attorney Salvatore Cuilla returned to an exhibit presented by prosecutors — a notebook filled with lists and indecipherable phrases written by the defendant.

Given the opportunity to flip through the notebook on his own, Nayeri shook his head and became tearful before his attorney questioned him about the book.

The pages include statements such as “I love you Mrs. Nayeri” and “Help!” There also are references to the Marine Corps and “heartbreak” and a “bloody sock.”

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When asked to explain the reference to the bloody sock — an item that Shegerian testified she had found in the trash after the kidnapping — Nayeri explained that he had badly injured his foot in a car crash in Madera County that killed his best friend in 2005.

“I’ve had bloody socks routinely since the accident,” he said, adding that the crash crushed and burned his right side, leg and hip and “cooked” his foot. He said he underwent multiple surgeries and skin grafts.

Nayeri was convicted of vehicular manslaughter in the crash, according to reports, and was placed on probation with a suspended prison sentence of four years and eight months.

Nayeri testified that all the entries in the notebook were made around February 2011. He described the writings as “fragment thoughts” and the time of year as around the anniversary of both the fatal crash and the disappearance of his father, a physician in Iran.

Murphy pressed Nayeri on the sudden tears.

“Did you break down and cry when you learned [the victim] had been sexually mutilated? Are you crying for his family, girlfriend, wife, any of those people?”

“No,” Nayeri said.

The victims have testified that the man was brutally beaten and that they were dropped off, bound, in the desert about 150 miles from Newport Beach. The captors cut off the dispensary owner’s penis and poured bleach over his body.

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One of the captors tossed a knife into nearby bushes and the woman was told that she could cut herself free if she could find it. She managed to release herself, but her roommate’s hands were too swollen, according to testimony.

After the woman walked barefoot through the desert for more than mile to a nearby highway, a Kern County sheriff’s deputy found her with her hands still bound behind her back and a blindfold pushed over her forehead, Nayeri was arrested in November 2013 and escaped from Orange County Jail in 2016, evading authorities for eight days before being captured in San Francisco.

Sclafani writes for Times Community News.


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