SANTA ANA, Calif. (AP) — An inmate who led authorities on an eight-day manhunt after escaping from an Orange County jail got his trial on kidnapping and torture charges delayed Tuesday as his lawyer raised concerns about his ability to find an unbiased jury to hear the case.
Hossein Nayeri, 37, appeared inside a caged area of a Santa Ana courtroom reserved for jailed defendants. His chains clanked as he walked, and the courtroom was packed with media trying to get footage of the bearded former Marine who was on the run for more than a week after pulling off the brazen escape Jan. 22 with two fellow inmates.
Orange County Superior Court Judge Robert R. Fitzgerald granted a request by Nayeri's lawyer to delay his trial on charges of kidnapping and torturing a marijuana dispensary owner by burning him with a blow torch and cutting off his penis. Nayeri is due back in court March 21.
Outside the courtroom, defense lawyer Salvatore P. Ciulla said he needed more time to address issues in the case and to find a jury following widespread publicity of the jailbreak and his client's recapture in San Francisco on Saturday after an alert citizen spotted the fugitives' stolen van.
"We've got to find a jury now as best as we can that's unbiased," Ciulla told reporters. "We're certainly not going to rush into trial on the heels of this."
Nayeri, 20-year-old murder suspect Jonathan Tieu and 43-year-old attempted murder suspect Bac Duong escaped from Central Men's Jail in Santa Ana by sawing through a metal grate, climbing inside jail walls to reach the roof and rappelling down four stories using a rope made of sheets.
They eluded authorities until their alliance unraveled after a dispute about whether to kill a cab driver they had taken hostage.
Duong returned to Southern California and surrendered on Friday. Nayeri and Tieu were caught in San Francisco the next day.
Authorities previously said a woman who taught English classes at the jail helped Nayeri plot the escape, but prosecutors said there was insufficient evidence to charge her with a crime. The district attorney's office did, however, charge a man with aiding in the jailbreak by smuggling tools inside the jail.
Sheriff Sandra Hutchens has said Nayeri was likely the mastermind of the escape.
Nayeri joined the Marines in 1998 out of high school, but he was court martialed in May 1999 after deserting the Marine Corps for a few months. He spent 47 days in the brig and later received a bad-conduct discharge, Marine Corps spokeswoman Yvonne Carlock said.
This story corrects that Nayeri was court martialed for desertion in 1999 and clarifies that he was later given a bad-conduct discharge.
Associated Press Writers Julie Watson in San Diego and Gillian Flaccus in Tustin, California, contributed to this report.