Lives converged this spring for defendants in two separate Sonoma County criminal cases.
During a preliminary hearing for Cotati family members accused of pimping a 16-year-old girl, the victim testified that Mohannad Halaweh, 19, who is accused of renting a $240,000 sports car with stolen credit card information and defrauding Safeway stores out of thousands of dollars, lived at the same Charles Street house.
She said Halaweh rented a room while she was kept as a “slave” at the house from April 8 to June 10. She was forced to clean up after Halaweh, but he was otherwise not involved in forcing her into the sex trade, she said.
It was unclear whether fake credit cards the teen said were used to rent rooms for prostitution at a Beverly Hills hotel came from Halaweh.
The girl said she moved out six days after Halaweh was arrested in Santa Rosa on June 4 at the wheel of the bright orange McLaren.
In addition to charges connected to the luxury sports car, Halaweh is accused of using stolen credit cards to rent high-end vacation homes and with using fake credit cards to steal about $150,000 from Safeway stores along the North Coast. He is expected to enter pleas July 11.
Meanwhile, a judge ruled Thursday there was enough evidence to try his former housemates, Abdelaziz Thomas, 38, and Thomas’ grandchild’s mother, April Dominique-Nysha Thomas, 19, on charges of pimping and providing drugs to the teen, identified in court only as Jane Doe. Abdelaziz Thomas’ son, Arthur Thomas, 20, was cleared of all charges.
Judge Shelly Averill also found there was evidence Abdelaziz Thomas had sex with the minor, committed forced sodomy on her, made threats against her and inflicted corporal injury on her.
However, Averill tossed out the most serious charge against the two — human trafficking, which by itself carries a 15-year sentence. The judge said evidence suggests the teen was working as a prostitute before she moved in with the Thomases and they did not introduce her to the business.
The judge rejected allegations Arthur Thomas was the “muscle” behind the prostitution. He remained in custody on an unrelated case.
Outside court, prosecutor Bill Brockley said investigators were continuing to look into Halaweh’s relationship with the Thomases.
The girl testified the family pimped her in hotel rooms across the Bay Area and drove her to locations as far away as Medford, Ore., and Los Angeles. On at least one occasion, bogus credit cards were used, according to testimony.
If convicted, Abdelaziz Thomas faces up to 15 years in prison and April Thomas could be sentenced to a maximum of 11 years, Brockley said.
The chief deputy prosecutor sought sanctions against Abdelaziz Thomas’s lawyer, Steve Turer, at the end of the two-day hearing.
Brockley argued Turer posed inappropriate questions to the teenager about her history of prostitution. And at one point in the proceedings, Brockley said Turer blurted out a profanity.
The judge declined to penalize Turer for his questioning, finding it was needed to form an opinion about the human trafficking allegation. And she let him off with a warning about the profanity, in part because she said she did not hear it.
The old and new
Side-by-side comparison of the San Francisco 49ers’ new home in Santa Clara versus the one they left behind in San Francisco:
Candlestick Park; Levi's Stadium
Year opened: 1960; 2014
Cost to build: $32 million; $1.3 billion
Seating capacity: 69,900; 68,500*
Suites: 94; 176
Stadium square footage: 985,000; 1,850,000
Average concourse width (feet): 19; 63
Scoreboard square footage: 1,296; 19,000
Elevators: 4; 25
Escalators: 6; 38
Toilets: 885; 1,135
Parking spaces: 18,000; about 30,000
*With room to expand
Source: San Francisco 49ers 2014 Media Guide
Tale of three stadiums
Opened in 1925 in southeast corner of Golden Gate Park; renovated 1989-90
Cost $300,000 ($4 million in 2014 dollars)
Seating capacity nearly 60,000
Founding home of San Francisco 49ers in 1946; team moved to Candlestick Park in 1971.
In their finale at Kezar, the 49ers lost the 1970 NFC Championship Game to the Dallas Cowboys, 17–10, on Jan. 3, 1971, and fans set to tearing the stadium apart looking for souvenirs or with mayhem on their minds.
Opened in 1960 as the home of the San Francisco Giants baseball team.
Cost $15 million ($120 million in current dollars)
Seating capacity nearly 70,000
49ers moved into stadium in 1971; played final game Dec. 23, 2013
Hosted eight National Football Conference championship games, four won by Niners, the first in 1982 decided by 'The Catch,' Dwight Clark's touchdown reception from Joe Montana.
Opened in 2014 in Santa Clara, 38 miles south of Candlestick Park
Cost $1.3 billion
Seating capacity 68,500 with ability to expand
First 49ers game Sunday; preseason match against Denver Broncos at 1 p.m.
Features digital, sustainable and gastronomical advances, including a stadium mobile app, rooftop garden for insulation and 32 vegan menu items.