A state appeals court has upheld the conviction of Abdulrahman Zeitoun, whose heroic reputation for rescue efforts after Hurricane Katrina was tainted by the years of harassment he directed toward his ex-wife.
Orleans Parish Criminal District Court Judge Keva Landrum-Johnson was well within her bounds when she convicted Zeitoun and sentenced him to four years in prison, a three-judge panel of the 4th Circuit Court of Appeal said Wednesday.
Zeitoun, 60, was convicted in June 2015 of stalking a person who had a protective order against him. On appeal, he sought to have the court throw out his conviction or his sentence.
Judges Joy Cossich Lobran, Roland Belsome and Marion Edwards were unanimous in deciding against him.
“The record evidences how deeply afraid (Kathy Zeitoun) was of defendant, and what a visceral response she had to his presence, due to defendant’s repeated harassment,” the panel said.
The Syrian immigrant and painting contractor rose to literary prominence in 2009, when author Dave Eggers wrote a book that lionized him for rescuing his neighbors in a canoe after the storm. Eggers also chronicled the weeks Zeitoun spent behind bars on a false suspicion of looting.
Zeitoun claimed on appeal that the criminal justice system once again failed him during his trial, when his ex-wife detailed years of harassment and abuse she said she suffered at his hands.
After Kathy Zeitoun divorced her husband in February 2012, she said he subjected her to a series of alarming incidents.
She said Zeitoun cornered her, beat her with a tire iron and began choking her outside her lawyer’s office in July 2012. She testified that she was so afraid of her ex-husband that she thought she would die.
In the years that followed, Zeitoun haunted their joint rental properties — at one point releasing goats and cutting down a tree to harass their tenants — and telephoned her, despite a court protective order, she said.
Zeitoun was found not guilty of attempted murder for the choking incident at a separate trial, but state prosecutors rolled the other episodes into a felony stalking charge in a 2014 indictment.
On appeal, Abdulrahman Zeitoun’s attorneys argued that Kathy Zeitoun should not have been allowed to testify about the tire-iron attack because he had already been acquitted of it. They also said there was no proof that she had been placed in fear of her life.
The 4th Circuit panel said it had already ruled before the trial that Kathy Zeitoun would be allowed to tell the jury about the tire-iron attack.
Abdulrahman Zeitoun will remain behind bars for at least a few more weeks as he awaits a Sept. 12 hearing to determine his bail for allegedly …
As for Kathy Zeitoun’s fear of death, the appeals panel said the testimony at the trial was clear.
Zeitoun is incarcerated at the Allen Correctional Center in Kinder, according to online records. His expected release date was not immediately available.