EL CAJON, California (AP) — An Iraqi immigrant was sentenced Monday to 25 years to life in prison for his wife’s fatal beating, which initially drew international condemnation when authorities believed it was a hate crime.
Kassim Alhimidi was sentenced in San Diego County Superior Court after yelling out to the courtroom audience that he is not guilty.
He entered the courtroom with his hands bound and yelled out, “I swear I’m not guilty,” and then yelled in Arabic to a son who was in court.
Deputies quickly removed him from the courtroom temporarily. After being sentenced, he yelled out that he would prefer to be sentenced to death and donate his organs.
The 2012 killing of Shaima Alawadi occurred at the couple’s home in the city of El Cajon, a suburb east of San Diego that is home to the second-largest Iraqi population in the United States.
The sentencing followed an emotional trial.
Alhimidi shook his head and wagged his finger as jurors delivered the guilty verdict. His oldest son shouted obscenities and proclaimed his father’s innocence before several deputies wrestled him out of the courtroom.
Another son also shouted in his father’s defense, while the victim’s mother said in Arabic that Alhimidi deserved worse, according to an official court translator.
“In Iraq, normally if he kills her, he is supposed to be killed in the same way,” Rehima Alhussanwi told reporters through the translator after Alhimidi’s conviction in April.
The couple’s eldest daughter found Alawadi, 32, in a pool of blood on the kitchen floor in March 2012, and she died two days later, suffering from multiple fractures to her head. A note found nearby read: “This is my country, go back to yours, you terrorist,” setting off a hate-crime investigation.
Muslim community leaders in the U.S. and Iraq initially condemned the attack against Alawadi, who wore a hijab and volunteered at a mosque. Investigators later determined the note was a photocopy of one found a week earlier outside the home.
Prosecutors indicated the note may have been planted by Alhimidi to steer the investigation away from him.
They say Alhimidi killed the mother of five because she wanted to divorce him and move to Texas. They argued Alhimidi lied to police about his troubled marriage and apologized to his wife as she lay dying in a hospital.
Defense lawyers said there is no forensic evidence against Alhimidi and that he loved his wife and was not a violent man. They say he also returned from Iraq after burying his wife there when he could have stayed in his homeland and avoided prosecution.
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