Bahai News -- ABC7 - Man Charged in Recent Firebombings

Man Charged in Recent Firebombings

Farshid Haji Ezra Tehrani, 40, of Encino, pleaded innocent and was ordered to remain jailed in lieu of $750,000 bail pending his next court appearance May
VAN NUYS — A man accused in a series of recent arson attacks at houses of worship in Encino was charged today with a dozen criminal counts, including arson and terrorism.

Farshid Haji Ezra Tehrani, 40, of Encino, pleaded innocent and was ordered by Van Nuys Superior Court Commissioner Alvin Nierenberg to remain jailed in lieu of $750,000 bail pending his next court appearance May 28.

The criminal complaint accuses Tehrani of one count each of terrorism and and arson of a structure for attacks on:

-- First Presbyterian Church, 4963 Balboa Blvd., on April 26;

-- Baha'i Community Center, 4830 Genesta Ave., on May 5;

-- an Iranian Jewish synagogue at 18018 Ventura Blvd., on May 5; and

-- Valley Beth Shalom Synagogue, 15739 Ventura Blvd., on May 7.

Tehrani also is charged with the April 25 arson of the home of a rabbi in the 5100 block of Balboa Boulevard, along with vandalism of religious property and attempted arson for a May 6 attack on the Da'nt Torah Educational Center at 16332 Ventura Blvd., where a window was shattered.

The final criminal charge stems from the early morning arson of a trash can at Lindbrook Avenue and Westwood Boulevard near the UCLA campus in Westwood last Friday, just before Tehrani's arrest. Undercover officers had him under surveillance.

The criminal complaint also alleges that most of the incidents were hate crimes.

No one was hurt in any of the attacks.

Tehrani faces a possible maximum state prison term of 22 years if convicted of all the charges, according to prosecutors.

Defense attorney Laizer Gould told reporters outside the courthouse that the case against his client was weak.

"There doesn't appear to be much in the initial paperwork that implicates Mr. Tehrani, if anything at all," Gould said. "He has assured me that he has no involvement in these crimes."

Scott Millington, who heads the District Attorney's Hate Crimes Unit, cast doubt on media accounts indicating that Tehrani is Jewish.

"My information is to the contrary at this moment. We will continue to investigate that," Millington said, declining to elaborate.

The defendant's brother-in-law, who attended today's court hearing, said that Tehrani is Jewish.

"He is Jewish, my brother-in-law, he is Jewish. I am Jewish ...," Massoud Amayti said in a broadcast report. He also maintained that Tehrani was innocent.

"He's a good guy and he didn't do nothing, only maybe he did (set a fire) in the trash can -- it's nothing," he said, apparently referring to the Westwood incident.

Following Tehrani's arrest last week, Mayor Jim Hahn said, "These kinds of crimes really tear at the fabric of our community. I'm very pleased that the police have worked so quickly."

City Councilman Jack Weiss, a former federal prosecutor who represents Encino, said last week that residents and worshipers in his district were "breathing a tentative sigh of relief."

Considerable manpower was committed to the investigation into the arsons, including the city's House of Worship Task Force, which was created in 1996.

The task force is made up of city firefighters and police officers, as well as federal law enforcement agents. About 100 fire investigators and 65 LAPD detectives are involved.

Also joining the effort were investigators from the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, the FBI and the district attorney's hate crime and arson units.

Tehrani came to the United States from Tehran about 16 years ago and has devoted his life to his family, his sister told the Los Angeles Times.

Public records obtained by the newspaper show that Tehrani once ran a shop in the heart of the Los Angeles jewelry district called Downtown Jewelry Liquidators. A vendor at the shop said Tehrani sold jewelry there for a while, but left the business several years ago.

Last Updated: May 13, 2003

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