A marijuana dispensary owner testified that he awoke to a bright light just before intruders roused him from a couch in his Balboa Peninsula home the morning of Oct. 2, 2012.
“At first, I thought it was my friend who would go out [to] the bars and come home drunk,” he told an Orange County jury Monday.
The man muttered that he was trying to sleep and asked to be left alone. From the darkness, he heard a voice that didn’t belong to a friend.
The then-28-year-old opened his eyes and gazed into a barrel of a shotgun illuminated with a mounted flashlight, according to his testimony.
The dispensary owner said he grabbed the barrel and tried to wrestle the weapon from the masked man.
After a short fight, an accomplice of the assailant grabbed the dispensary owner from behind, put him in a headlock and choked him until he lost consciousness.
The victim’s testimony in a Newport Beach courtroom came on the third day of the trial of Hossein Nayeri, 40, who is charged with two counts of kidnapping for extortion torture, aggravated mayhem and burglary.
Prosecutors allege Nayeri and his co-conspirators — including Fountain Valley resident Kyle Shirakawa Handley, who was already convicted in the case — sought $1 million they incorrectly believed the dispensary owner had buried in the Mojave Desert.
The Daily Pilot is not identifying the dispensary owner because of the nature of the crime.
After the intruders blindfolded him, zip-tied his wrists and ankles and taped his mouth shut, the intruders dragged the dispensary owner down the stairs of his 25th Street home, his head bouncing off each step.
The dispensary owner and his landlord’s girlfriend, who was asleep in the house at the time, were thrown into what they described as a cargo van and driven off the Peninsula.
The kidnappers drove for about 10 minutes before stopping for gas.
“I heard the sound of the gas nozzle going into the car and we were there, you know, for a few minutes,” the dispensary owner said. “At that point, they put a knife to me and told me to be quiet.”
A three-hour drive to a gold mine off Highway 14 in the Mojave Desert, during which the dispensary owner said he was repeatedly beaten with a rubber hose, shocked with a stun gun and burned with a blow torch, followed.
During a break in the torture, the victim testified that his mind wandered to why someone would do this to him.
“I’m just thinking, ‘How did we get to this point?’ ” he said. “First of all, I don’t have a million bucks. I didn’t have $100,000 to my name at that time.
“How does someone think I have a million bucks? I didn’t have any bad blood with anybody. The whole situation kind of seemed personal.”
Prosecutors allege that Handley mistakenly believed the dispensary owner buried the money in the desert aftera trip to Las Vegas in May 2012.
The dispensary owner testified that he kept about $30,000 in a safe at his shop in Santa Ana to avoid larger sums from being confiscated by federal agents or stolen.
He also said he never carried balances with the 100 vendors who supplied him with cannabis and edible marijuana.
At one point during his testimony, the dispensary owner remained on the witness stand while attorneys spoke with Orange County Superior Court Judge Gregg Prickett in chambers.
Wearing a white collared shirt, black slacks and a neatly trimmed beard, the man appeared to stare at Nayeri, who either looked down at his desk or up at the ceiling.
When the time came, the dispensary owner calmly and candidly recalled the mutilation he endured during his ordeal.
“At this point, they told me, ‘We have to bring our boss back something; if we’re not bringing him back money, we’re bringing him back your [penis],’ ” the man said. “What happened next is they pulled me out of the van, they held me down, and then proceeded to cut off my penis.”
Before leaving, one of the captors tossed a knife into some nearby bushes and told the woman that she could cut herself free if she could find it.
She managed to free herself and walk barefoot for about 10 minutes down a dirt road until she reached Highway 14, where a Kern County sheriff’s deputy found her.
Handley was arrested a few days after the kidnapping and sentenced in July 2018 to life in prison.
Jurors are scheduled to hear more testimony Tuesday.
Daniel Langhorne is a contributor to Times Community News.