Clovis News

Jury finds Fresno businessman guilty in murder-for-hire case

Fresno businessman Daljit Singh on Thursday was found guilty of trying to hire a hit man to kill his former business partner last year.

Jurors deliberated less than six hours before convicting Singh in Fresno County Superior Court of solicitation of murder. Jurors also found Singh not guilty of possession of a stolen handgun.

Singh, 43, looked down as the verdict was announced, seemingly showing no emotion. But after jurors left the courtroom, he cried while continuing to look down and struggled to answer questions posed by Judge W. Kent Hamlin.

"I'm feeling so bad right now," Paul Singh, who is Daljit Singh's brother-in-law, said outside of court after the verdict was announced. "They framed him up, you know."

Prosecutor David Shabaglian left without commenting, but District Attorney Elizabeth A. Egan said in a written statement that "the crime of solicitation to murder a human being is despicable. We thank the jury for their service."

Singh faces up to nine years in prison; Egan said he is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug. 6.

But his attorney, Anthony Capozzi, said he will seek a new trial because it was revealed during testimony that police informant Joe Luis Yzaguirre Jr. was shot in the chest in November just as Singh's trial was supposed to begin and that he was under witness protection.

Capozzi said those revelations clearly prejudiced the jury.

During the trial, a female juror told the court that the testimony about the informant being shot left her uneasy. In a note, the juror told Hamlin that she has concerns as to whether she and the other jurors would be at risk if they convicted Singh.

Both sides agreed that Yzaguirre secretly taped Singh saying that he wanted his former business partner, Rama Kant Dawar, a member of the Fresno Planning Commission and a well-known court interpreter, to be killed.

But Capozzi contended that his client was just blowing off steam, had pulled out of the alleged plot and never intended to kill the 44-year-old Dawar.

Singh, who also is known as Danny Multani, owns a limousine and towing service in Fresno and once was Dawar's business partner. Yzaguirre once worked for Singh as a limo driver.

Shabaglian said Singh had motive to want Dawar dead; a lawsuit between the two former business partners and nearly $41,000 in damages was decided in Dawar's favor.

When Singh asked Yzaguirre to find a hit man, Yzaguirre became concerned and went to police, Shabaglian said.

Singh has been in jail since his arrest on April 18, 2011. That Yzaguirre was shot in the chest in November at a vacant Clovis house just as Singh's trial was supposed to begin added intrigue to the case. Yzaguirre recovered from the shooting, but his case was never solved.

Yzaguirre wore a bulletproof vest when he testified during the trial. His credibility was at issue because he has a prior criminal record for theft-related offenses. "Justice is served -- no doubt about that," Yzaguirre said in a telephone interview after the verdict was announced.

Yzaguirre said Singh's conviction vindicates him and that it felt good to save Dawar's life. He also thanked God for saving his own life the day he was shot.

"God had his angels on my side that day because I nearly bled to death," he said.

But Capozzi said he isn't finished -- and is "hoping to go through this once more" in a new trial. At the same time, he said, he is worried about Singh.

"He's distraught, but that's reality," he said of the jury's verdict. "We have to deal with it now."

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