Kidnap case moves forward

Months before a Newport Beach man was kidnapped and severely beaten last year, he had traveled to Las Vegas with a business acquaintance he knew from his Orange County medical marijuana dispensary, according to court testimony given Wednesday by police detectives who investigated the attack.

On that trip to the desert, the Balboa Peninsula resident spent tens of thousands of dollars on hotel suites and gambling and allegedly paid for his associate to have a massage that included a sexual act, according to the Newport Beach Police detectives.

But five months later, the Newport man was kidnapped, beaten, tortured and left by the side of the road with his bruised female roommate in the Mojave Desert — the apparent victims of a group of assailants.

Now the man's traveling companion, Kyle Shirakawa Handley, 34, of Fountain Valley, stands accused of being part of a group of assailants who abducted and harmed the Newport man, 29, and his roommate, 53, neither of whom the Daily Pilot is naming because they are victims of violent crimes.

Though the violent acts were committed by a group of people, Handley will be the first to face trial on charges that he was involved in the kidnapping, beating and torture of the male victim.

Prosecutors allege that his pickup truck, zip ties and other evidence connect him at least in part to crimes committed by a larger group of people. However, Handley's defense attorney explained in a preliminary hearing Wednesday that the evidence against his client was so thin it could be "anorexic."

Orange County Superior Court Commissioner James S. Odriozola determined at the Santa Ana hearing that police and prosecutors presented enough evidence to move the case forward to a May 7 arraignment.

"The standard at a preliminary hearing is near probable cause, and the judge did not offer an opinion as to whether my client was in fact guilty of the offense," defense attorney Robert Weinberg said after the proceeding. "Now, in all fairness to the prosecution, their investigation is not over.

"So, there hasn't been a trial on the case yet, and my client and I are anxiously awaiting the forensic testing, all of which has turn up empty linking my client personally to anything. It is hard for even the most hardened follower of serious felony cases not to be disgusted with the demonic cruelty shown to the victim in this case."

During the hearing, Handley, dressed in an orange jail jumpsuit, sat handcuffed to a wooden chair at the defendant's table as prosecutors highlighted evidence that his white Dodge pickup was seen outside the victims' home hours before the attack and that cut zip ties and bleached towels were found in a trash bag at Handley's home.

Weinberg, however, argued that there was no evidence that Handley's truck was actually used in the kidnapping.

The day of the crime, the male victim awoke in the early morning hours on Oct. 2 to find the barrel of a shotgun in his face as another attacker came in the room and immediately began hitting, punching and choking him, Newport Beach Police Det. Ryan Peters testified.

One of the masked assailants hit the man in the head with the stock of the gun when he tried to push it away, Peters testified.

Both victims described being loaded into a truck or van and being driven out to the desert, police said.

Along the way, the assailants demanded $1 million in cash, and the man was beaten and burned, possibly with a torch, detectives testified.

Once in the desert, the man was doused in bleach and a portion of his penis was severed. The woman suffered cuts and bruises.

After a Kern County Sheriff's Department deputy came upon the pair, they were rescued and taken to Antelope Valley Hospital.

The male victim runs a legal marijuana clinic in Santa Ana. Handley had allegedly sold him pot for his dispensary, Peters said, and their relationship became friendly enough that they decided to travel together to Las Vegas.

Newport detectives testified that the victims saw so-called panda paper, a plastic material used in marijuana cultivation, in the vehicle used in the kidnapping. The paper matched the description of the material discovered at Handley's home.

Weinberg, however, said that because his client is in the marijuana business, having that type of paper would make sense and not tie him to the crimes.

Six days before the kidnapping, during a high-speed pursuit, Newport Beach police found evidence that the male victim was being watched. An electronic receipt showed surveillance equipment was sent to Handley's home, police testified in court.

Weinberg contended that although the surveillance equipment was sent to his client's address, nothing indicated he used the items to watch the male victim.

He also pointed to the victim's initial police interview, during which, he said, the suspects spoke Spanish among themselves.

His client, he explained, doesn't speak Spanish.

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