While in the process of being sentenced to more than 19 years in state prison for driving bombs and other explosive materials through Brea, a Salinas man called the judge “a cockroach” and suggested the prosecutor may have been confused because she is Jewish.
Orange County Deputy District Susan Laird is not Jewish; not that there’s anything wrong with that.
A Brea police officer pulled over Saleh Abdallah Ali’s vehicle for expired registration tags on Sept. 18 at South Orange Avenue and Imperial Highway. The cop later determined the 48-year-old was driving on an expired license, but even more serious (and potentially deadly) offenses were discovered during a search of the black Toyota Corolla.
That’s when two improvised explosive devices and containers covered in shrapnel were found in the economy sedan. That led to a call for the county sheriff’s bomb squad. Ali was taken to Orange County Jail, where he was held in lieu of $500,000 bail.
Acting as his own attorney, Ali told the judge, “You’re a cockroach.” It is when Laird argued Ali should receive the maximum sentence that the defendant said, “She seems to be confused … maybe she has a Jewish background, I don’t know.”
You know how they say someone who represents himself has a fool for a client? Ali received the maximum sentence of 19 months and four months in state prison.
He’d been convicted on March 4 on two felony counts each of using a destructive device with the intent to injure, sale and transportation of a destructive device, and reckless and malicious possession of a destructive device on a public street or highway, and one felony count of possession of materials with intent to unlawfully make a destructive device.
District Attorney Todd Spitzer held a press conference in conjunction with today’s sentencing to argue for longer prison sentences for those convicted of crimes such as Ali’s. He called the Muslim defendant a “wannabe terrorist,” although police could not tie him to any terrorist organization and an FBI official at the press conference conceded Ali “was not on our radar.”
“There was no doubt, no doubt that he had the intent, by his possession of these weapons, to commit as much destruction as he could,” said Spitzer, who went on to mention Ali’s past attacks on people. Of crimes Ali committed in New Jersey, the DA said, “He took a boxcutter and cut a man all across his face. He took out a firearm on a prior occasion and shot at people.”
“Saleh Ali has spent the last two decades engaged in violent behavior that has left his victims severely injured and permanently disfigured,” Spitzer said. “It is clear he planned to continue that destruction here in Orange County. Our residents will no longer have to worry about driving down the street next to Saleh Ali and the bombs he designed and built to kill them.”
Spitzer’s office went into more detail on Ali’s criminal past in its conviction announcement:
In 2001, in Passaic County, New Jersey, Ali shot at 30-year-old John Doe 1 and 17-year-old John Doe 2 with a firearm multiple times. In 2003, Ali was convicted by a jury of two counts of terroristic threats and possession of a weapon with an unlawful purpose and sentenced to state prison.
In 2001, in Passaic County, New Jersey, Ali slashed the face of 23-year-old John Doe 3 from his earlobe to his chin with a razor-like object during a verbal dispute in the Dunkin Donuts parking lot. In 2003, Ali pled guilty to aggravated assault causing serious bodily injury in this case and was sentenced to state prison. The victim had to have plastic surgery and was left with a disfiguring scar.
In 2013, in Nepal, Ali threw a glass jar full of acid in the face of 39-year-old John Doe 4, a hotel manager, causing the victim to be permanently blind in his right eye and to lose 50% of his sight in his left eye. The victim’s face was cut from shards of broken glass and he suffered burns over his entire face from the acid. The victim had a total of five surgeries that were unsuccessful in restoring his vision. Ali served a two-year prison sentence in Nepal for this crime.
Matt Coker has been engaging, enraging and entertaining readers of newspapers, magazines and websites for decades. He spent the first 13 years of his career in journalism at daily newspapers before “graduating” to OC Weekly in 1995 as the paper’s first calendar editor. He went on to be managing editor, executive editor and is now senior staff writer.