By Ed Runyan
The Trumbull County Prosecutor’s Office is responding to Nasser Hamad’s accusation in court documents that prosecutors are engaging in selective prosecution for not filing charges against the three survivors of Hamad’s deadly Feb. 25 attack.
The office’s response was filed Tuesday in common pleas court, where Hamad, 47, is charged with two counts of aggravated murder and several counts of attempted aggravated murder in the deaths of two young men and the shootings of three other people who came to his house in a dispute.
In the filing, Chris Becker and Michael Burnett, assistant prosecutors, provide a list of Facebook messages posted by Hamad, 47, to John Shively, 17, and Bryce Hendrickson, 20, before the confrontation at Hamad’s home on state Route 46 in Howland near Eastwood Mall.
Among the messages:
“I home bring your gang I don’t need guns for u [deleted]”
“All of u and still know one showing up u [deleted] [deleted]”
“Action [deleted] where is it”
“Hurry the [deleted] up u [deleted] [deleted] and beep horn [deleted].”
“Shively u [deleted] looking face think u something ... U dirty broke trash ... Little midget white [deleted] boy ... I been still waiting for you [deleted].”
The filing says the “name calling back and forth” went on for hours, then the five arrived at Hamad’s house and a fistfight between Hamad and Shively took place outside, with no one entering the Hamad residence.
“The defendant was not seriously injured,” the filing says. “He even bragged to [Howland police] detective [Tony] Villanueva how well he defended himself.” Hamad’s only injury was a fracture of the navicular bone of the hand.
Hamad “acknowledged” that the fight had ended at the point where he went into the house and retrieved his gun, the filing says. He also acknowledged that the five were in the van when he walked the 70 feet from his front door to the van and fired nine to 10 shots at the five.
When the bullets ran out, Hamad went back into the house and got a second ammunition magazine. “Again, he did not call 911, lock himself securely in his home and wait for police,” the filing says.
When he arrived at the van a second time, he fired the fatal shot into the back of Josh Haber, 19, while Haber tried to get back into the van. He also fired at Shively and Hendrickson as they fled on foot, the filing says.
Joshua Williams, 20, later died at the hospital. April Trent Vokes, 42, suffered serious injuries, as did Hendrickson. Shively was grazed by a bullet.
Hamad’s attorney, Geoffrey Oglesby, filed a motion March 8 to Judge Ronald Rice asking that charges against Hamad be dropped because the prosecution has “not pursued ... charges against the three White Americans and has charged the Arab-Muslim American, and they were all involved in the same altercation.”
The filing called the five “a terroristic group set firmly against Hamad because he was an Arab and a Muslim.”
According to prosecutors, to succeed in a selective-prosecution claim, Hamad would need to overcome a “presumption of regularity” that grants “broad discretion” to prosecutors to enforce the criminal laws.
The prosecutors quoted a 1978 court decision that says “so long as the prosecutor has probable cause to believe that the accused committed an offense defined by statute, the decision whether or not to prosecute, and what charge to file or bring before a grand jury, generally rests entirely in his discretion.”
One of the constraints on prosecutors is that he or she cannot prosecute based on “an unjustifiable standard such as race, religion, or other arbitrary classification.”
In the Howland shootings, Hamad was the only person with a loaded firearm, the only person to fire it, and the only person to shoot someone, the filing says. He shot five people with at least 18 shots, it says. Therefore, Hamad has not provided any information that the prosecutor failed to prosecute other similarly situated individuals for identical conduct.
The three survivors were not prosecuted “because they were shot,” the filing says. Charges were filed against Hamad not based on his race or religion but “based on his calculated, conscious, callous and deliberate action in shooting five individuals.”
The filing adds, “The only injection of race or religion in this entire proceeding has been done by the defendant himself when he asked whether the assistant prosecutor [Becker] was a “Zionist Jew.”