When former Clovis West High wrestler Hossein Nayeri, now the state’s most-wanted fugitive, was convicted of killing a person he said was his best friend in a drunken driving crash in 2005, he received an outpouring of community support seeking leniency from a Madera judge.
The letters, many from high school friends and their families, told Judge Mitchell Rigby the toll that the death of Ehsan Tousi had taken on Nayeri, praised Nayeri as a deeply caring person who traveled to New Orleans to help relief efforts after Hurricane Katrina and also lauded him for his service in an elite branch of the U.S. Marine Corps. Two of the letters were written by Clovis West classmates now accused of taking part with Nayeri in the 2013 robbery, kidnap and torture of an Orange County medical marijuana dispensary owner.
That portrayal contrasts sharply with the view of Nayeri by the victim’s brother, Ali Tousi, who described Nayeri as a “con man” and nothing more than an acquaintance of Ehsan Tousi who gamed the system to avoid prison.
It isn’t known to what extent the letters determined the judge’s deliberations, but in a 2009 sentence, Nayeri received five years of felony probation instead of a possible 4-year, 8-month prison term, although he had jumped bail in 2006 and had to be extradited from Washington state to face the court.
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Attempts to reach Rigby for comment on the letters’ effect in the sentencing were unsuccessful. Attorney Steven A. Geringer, who represented Nayeri in the Madera County manslaughter case, believes the positive words Nayeri received helped keep him out of prison.
“It was a situation where his best friend died and he had a lot of community support” and was one of the reasons the court granted the sentence, Geringer said.
This guy has caused so much grief and pain to my family.
Ali Tousi, whose brother died in a 2005 DUI crash with Hossein Nayeri behind the wheel
Geringer lost track of Nayeri after he received his second chance: “I don’t know what happened after he left Madera and went to Orange County.”
The contrast between the Nayeri accused of being part of the gang that tortured the dispensary owner with a blowtorch, severed his penis and used bleach to cover the crime and the Nayeri described in court letters could not be more striking. The others charged with taking part in the crime are former Clovis West students Kyle Handley, Ryan Kevorkian and his wife, Naomi Rhodus Kevorkian.
Letters of remorse, support
In his own lengthy, handwritten letter, Nayeri told the court that the Dec. 26, 2005 crash on Highway 41 south of Coarsegold was “the biggest mistake of my life … I wished I wouldn’t have gained consciousness. … Ehsan is not just a friend to me, we consider each other brothers. … I still talk to him.”
Nayeri told the judge the crash, in which he was also injured, forced him into “a total state of depression,” and concluded:
“There is a lesson to be learned and lives to be saved here. I realize now, it’s never too late.”
Ryan Kevorkian’s letter describes becoming friends with Nayeri as a high school freshman, joining Nayeri on the wrestling team. He said Nayeri was selected to join the Marines’ Force Recon unit, roughly the equivalent of a Navy SEAL team. (Two other wrestling teammates, Tony Rosas and his brother Timothy Rosas, said they joined the Marines as well and wrote letters supporting Nayeri.)
“I have always admired Hossein for his hard work and perseverance,” Ryan Kevorkian wrote. “Those are qualities in him that I have always tried to emulate in all areas of my life.
“I believe that Hossein has punished himself more than anyone else ever could. … I believe that people can change.”
Naomi Kevorkian, the wife of Ryan Kevorkian, described meeting Nayeri as a high school junior and said:
“Hossein is one of the most amazing people I know and one of my best friends. I am thankful that God put him in my life 13 years ago … never could I have imagined what an important role he would play in my life on so many levels.”
Ali Tousi: Nayeri is a ‘psychopath’
But Ali Tousi described Nayeri as “a psychopath” who had himself filmed standing by Ehsan Tousi’s grave to gather sympathy.
Ali Tousi said that on the night his brother died, about “15-20 kids” decided to go to Chukchansi casino, where his brother won several thousand dollars. Ali Tousi said that prompted Nayeri to try to befriend his brother and the vehicle may have crashed while Nayeri was struggling for the money.
The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office said Friday evening that local law enforcement is on the lookout for the men still wanted in Orange County.
Ali Tousi scoffed at the idea that Nayeri suffered from guilt over the crash and said the fact that he jumped bail is proof of that.
“What kind of man would do that?” Ali Tousi said.
The Tousi family has had to relive the death of Ehsan Tousi, first when Nayeri fled the court in 2006 and again in 2009 when the Madera trial was underway.
“This guy has caused so much grief and pain to my family,” Ali Tousi added.
Jim Guy: 559-441-6339