A former Baton Rouge automobile dealer accused in the 2015 murder-for-hire of his ex-wife paid for the killing with "lost" cash from the sale of a car, a new court filing alleges.
That filing resulted in Hamid Ghassemi’s first-degree murder trial being moved Wednesday from March 16 to Sept. 14. A motion hearing will be held June 18.
The documents filed Tuesday by prosecutor Dana Cummings state that the car sale occurred on April 9, 2015, two days before Ghassemi's ex-wife, Taherah Ghassemi, disappeared. Her body wasn’t recovered until May 16, 2015.
One of Hamid Ghassemi’s former employees, Thomas Brignac, told Cummings last week that Ghassemi announced on April 13, 2015, that the $13,200 in cash from the sale of the car was missing, the documents say.
Hamid Ghassemi, 69, who owned Import One and Import One Elite on Airline Highway at the time, “informed his employees that he must have left the cash in one of the vehicles that he test drove on the date he received the cash," the court filing states. "The money was never deposited into the business account and never located by the business."
Brignac provided Cummings with the cash receipt, the bill of sale and other documents executed during the April 9, 2015, transaction, the filing adds.
Hamid Ghassemi's lead attorney, Tommy Damico, described Brignac as a "very disgruntled" former employee.
"This is all information that we haven't seen any evidence of," Damico said Wednesday. "We're still looking at the information. We don't believe that's valid evidence. We don't believe that's correct evidence."
Cummings is asking for state District Judge Tarvald Smith's permission to use the evidence at Hamid Ghassemi's trial. Smith pushed Ghassemi’s trial back at the request of Damico, who said he needed more time to investigate the information contained in the prosecutor’s new filing. Cummings did not object to a continuance.
In the new court filing, the prosecutor says Brignac's statement confirmed information provided by Daniel Humberto Richter, a former employee of Hamid Ghassemi. Richter, 38, of Walker, pleaded guilty in 2018 to manslaughter and second-degree kidnapping of Taherah Ghassemi in return for a future 50-year prison sentence.
Hamid Ghassemi, who paid his ex-wife $1 million in a divorce settlement, is accused of paying $10,000 to have her killed.
Cummings alleged earlier this month in another court filing that Hamid Ghassemi wanted both his ex-wife and their son, Hamed Ghassemi, killed on the same night. But only Taherah Ghassemi was abducted from her Baton Rouge home.
In that Feb. 5 filing, the prosecutor also alleged that Hamid Ghassemi hired one of his accomplices, Skyler Williams, to attack Hamed Ghassemi a month before the slaying.
Cummings said Wednesday she is withdrawing her request to introduce evidence of the attack on Hamed Ghassemi at his father's trial. But she is still seeking court approval to tell the jury that Hamid Ghassemi allegedly wanted his ex-wife and son killed.
Williams, 22, of Denham Springs, also is charged with first-degree murder in the case and faces a possible life sentence without parole if found guilty on that charge. He was 17 when Taherah Ghassemi, 54, was killed.
Tyler Lee Ashpaugh, 25, of Denham Springs, pleaded guilty in 2018 to manslaughter in exchange for a future 40-year prison term. He admitted shooting Taherah Ghassemi in the head but claimed she was already dead when he shot her.
A forensic pathologist has said Taherah Ghassemi was still alive but likely unconscious when she was shot, according to documents filed previously.
Prosecutors are not seeking the death penalty against Hamid Ghassemi. He would be sentenced to life behind bars if convicted of first-degree murder.