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Nayeri gets life without parole in kidnap-mutilation case. Victim decries ‘sick act’

Hossein Nayeri, right, during his 2019 trial in Newport Beach.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Hossein Nayeri, the 41-year-old Newport Beach man who was convicted last year of playing a role in the kidnapping and mutilation of a medical marijuana dealer, was sentenced Friday to life in prison without parole for what a prosecutor described as “diabolical” behavior.

Prosecutors said the 2012 crime stemmed from Nayeri’s mistaken belief that the owner of a prosperous Santa Ana pot dispensary, who has been referred to in court as John Doe, had hidden $1 million in the Mojave Desert.

Nayeri and two other attackers abducted the man and a female housemate from a home on 25th Street in Newport Beach and forced them into a van. The attackers tortured the dispensary owner, tasing him, burning him with bleach, severing his penis and leaving him in the desert. He was rescued after his housemate made it back to the road and hailed a passing sheriff’s deputy.

“From a psychology standpoint I live with the feeling of always looking over my shoulder, never feeling 100% safe in any one location for any period of time,” the dispensary owner told Judge Gregg Prickett at Friday’s sentencing hearing in Orange County Superior Court.

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The man detailed the injuries he had suffered, from chemical and Taser burns to the genital mutilation he called “the most gratuitous, sadistic injury.”

“What kind of human being does such a thing?” he said. “The complications and pain both physically and psychologically which are connected to this sick act are so profound and deep that words cannot begin to discuss the depths of my pain.”

Asking the judge to impose a life sentence on Nayeri, prosecutor Heather Brown said the crime was motivated by “pure and utter greed.”

“Mr. Nayeri wanted something that he believed the victim in this case had, and he was willing to do anything to get that, including torture and tase and whip and burn the victim in this case, so that he could try to get some mysterious money that he believed that he had,” Brown said. “In the People’s mind there’s no punishment that’s great enough for Mr. Nayeri. He is incredibly dangerous. The acts he committed were diabolical.”

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When three men escaped from the Orange County jail, officials quickly decided only one of the escapees possessed the cunning and resourcefulness to mastermind it: Hossein Nayeri, a 37-year-old ex-Marine who faced charges in a grisly kidnapping and torture plot.

Prosecutors said Nayeri had been the ringleader of the abduction plot. Nayeri had been combative and volatile on the witness stand at his trial last year, and at his sentencing he spoke briefly, his voice stentorian and indignant.

Addressing the victims and their families, he said he was “truly sorry for what you all have been through” but otherwise offered no expressions of remorse. Instead, he used his platform to rage against the justice system and to brag of his personal growth.

“We all have flaws and we know it. I have many flaws. Wanting to hurt someone is not one of them,” Nayeri said. “I keep evolving. Moving and improving. Otherwise, as one of my heroes, Bob Dylan, says, ‘If you’re not busy being born, you’re busy dying.’”

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Nayeri also denounced his trial, saying that “people were presented with incomplete facts and distorted reality,” and adding: “John Wayne would have been dazzled by this wild wild West style of justice in Orange County.”

During a monthlong trial in the summer of 2019, Nayeri admitted to having surveilled the dispensary owner but denied participating in the abduction.

Nayeri’s DNA turned up on a glove inside a truck spotted at the abduction site. Jurors convicted him of two counts of kidnapping and one count of torture, though they concluded that he had not performed the mutilation personally.

At the trial, Nayeri’s former wife, Cortney Shegerian, testified that she helped Nayeri perform surveillance on the pot dispensary owner. When Nayeri fled to Iran amid the police investigation, Shegerian cooperated with authorities to lure him to the Czech Republic, for ultimate extradition to the United States.

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On Friday, Prickett denied Nayeri’s request for a new trial. The sentencing was originally scheduled for last October and was delayed for more than a year, in part because Nayeri fired his defense attorney after his conviction.

Nayeri will remain in the Orange County jail as he awaits trial on charges that he escaped from the jail in 2016, when he and two other inmates slipped through a plumbing tunnel and climbed down a length of knotted bedsheets to freedom. They remained fugitives for about a week before their recapture.

One of Nayeri’s accomplices in the abduction plot, Kyle Handley, is serving a life sentence after jurors convicted him in 2018 of kidnapping and torture. Two other accused accomplices have yet to stand trial.


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