Literary hero Abdulrahman Zeitoun to remain jailed, judge rules _lowres

Abdulrahman Zeitoun

Abdulrahman Zeitoun, the local painting contractor whose alleged harassment of his ex-wife has come to overshadow his once-heroic image from a popular work of post-Katrina literature, will remain in jail until his latest legal troubles are resolved, a judge ruled Thursday.

Zeitoun, 57, has been in and out of jail — mostly in — for months, accused most recently of violating protective orders on three separate occasions. The alleged violations include phone calls he made to Kathy Zeitoun and an incident in which he allegedly started banging on the door of a house where one of the divorced couple’s daughters was staying.

He also faces a felony stalking charge that encompasses four separate incidents that Kathy Zeitoun reported from January to May, none of them involving physical violence.

On Thursday, Criminal District Court Judge Keva Landrum-Johnson granted a motion by prosecutors to revoke Zeitoun’s bail and keep him jailed.

A pretrial conference is scheduled for Dec. 16, with a trial likely to start early next year.

Zeitoun’s attorney, J.C. Lawrence, has argued the charges are the fallout from a nasty legal dispute over numerous properties the couple still own together, though he has acknowledged that his client technically violated the protective orders.

Kathy Zeitoun has claimed that her ex-husband is “purposely taunting her” with his repeated attempts to reach her.

The latest incident came when Zeitoun, a Syrian who is not a U.S. citizen, called her Oct. 4 to wish her well during a Muslim holiday. Lawrence said that was inadvertent.

It’s been more than a year since Criminal District Court Judge Frank Marullo acquitted Abdulrahman Zeitoun on charges alleging he tried to beat his ex-wife to death with a tire iron on a Garden District street in 2012, then enlisted a fellow Orleans Parish Prison inmate to kill her for $20,000.

The nearly two-year legal saga stands in marked contrast to the portrayal of the couple in Dave Eggers’ acclaimed 2009 nonfiction book, “Zeitoun.” The book described their close bond, Zeitoun’s rescue efforts in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, his subsequent jailing on a bogus looting charge and their perseverance as he languished for nearly a month behind bars.

A movie deal based on the book has dissolved.

Follow John Simerman on Twitter, @johnsimerman.