Abdulrahman Zeitoun, once literary post-Katrina hero, again places fate in hands of criminal court judge _lowres

Abdulrahman Zeitoun

Abdulrahman Zeitoun, the New Orleans painting contractor whose image as a post-Hurricane Katrina hero dimmed with accusations that he beat up and tried to kill his ex-wife, has once again chosen to leave his fate in the hands of a judge, this time over a year-old stalking charge.

Zeitoun, 57, chose a judge trial Monday on the stalking count, which stems from four alleged run-ins with Kathy Zeitoun over several months early last year. At the time, a civil protective order barred him from contacting or coming within 100 yards of her or their four children.

The order also prohibited him from visiting nine specified properties they still owned together. Police allege that Zeitoun violated the order in January, March, April and May of last year. A grand jury in June 2014 indicted him on the stalking count, which carries a maximum sentence of two years in prison.

Separately, Zeitoun faces three misdemeanor counts alleging that he again violated a protective order after his indictment.

Allowing a judge to render a verdict worked well for Zeitoun in 2013, when he stood trial for allegedly trying to kill Kathy Zeitoun with a tire iron on Prytania Street, then offering a fellow inmate $20,000 to finish the job.

Criminal District Court Judge Frank Marullo acquitted Zeitoun in that case, finding that prosecutors with District Attorney Leon Cannizzaro’s office overreached with the charges. Marullo deemed the fellow inmate, Donald Pugh, a liar, in acquitting Zeitoun of the murder-for-hire plot.

Behind bars since October, Zeitoun remained Monday in Orleans Parish Prison, where his jailing on a bogus charge in the wake of Katrina — and the couple’s enduring love — became the hook for Dave Eggers’ critically acclaimed 2009 nonfiction book, “Zeitoun.”

The allegations against Zeitoun have since raised doubts about the reporting done by Eggers, who has remained mum on the subject.

Zeitoun appeared in court in orange jail scrubs Monday, saying little as his public defender requested the judge trial, which Criminal District Court Judge Keva Landrum-Johnson set for Oct. 13.

Follow John Simerman on Twitter, @johnsimerman.