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New York TV Exec Gets 25 Years to Life for Wife's Beheading

March 9, 2011
New York, NY

A former television executive was sentenced to 25 years to life in prison Wednesday for the beheading death of his wife.

After an hour of deliberation, an upstate New York jury convicted Muzzammil "Mo" Hassan of second-degree murder last month after a three-week trial.

In imposing the sentence, Erie County Judge Thomas Franczyk also issued a protection order on behalf of Hassan's two children.

In February 2009, Hassan, who founded a TV network aimed at countering Muslim stereotypes, went to a police station in the Buffalo, New York, suburb of Orchard Park and told officers his wife was dead, police have said.

Aasiya Hassan had been decapitated and the long knife used by her husband had left marks on his office's tile floor, prosecutors said during opening statements.

The sentence was the maximum amount Franczyk could impose under state law, said Erie County District Attorney Frank Sedita. He said the sentence was "a perfectly appropriate sentence under the circumstances and considering the violent nature of the crime and a lack of genuine remorse by the defendant."

The sentence basically means life, he said -- Hassan will not be "eligible to talk to the parole board" for 25 years. "The chances of him getting out before his sentence is completed is not going to happen," Sedita said.

Hassan gave his own closing arguments. Earlier in the trial, he had dismissed his attorney, Jeremy Schwartz, who by trial's end was acting as his legal adviser.

According to prosecutors, Aasiya Hassan had filed for divorce less than a week before she died.

On the day she died, she agreed to take some of her husband's clothes to his office after he had moved out of their home. He had told her he would not be there, prosecutors said.

"The defendant viciously killed ... and desecrated her (Aasiya's) body because six days earlier she had dared to file for divorce. Dared to seek a better life for herself and the children," Assistant District Attorney Paul Bonanno said in the prosecution's opening statement.

Schwartz, then his client's defense lawyer, said in his opening statement that the couple's marriage was a "sad and unhealthy relationship."

Aasiya Hassan threatened to embarrass his client and take away his children, Schwartz said.

"It ended with 'Mo' Hassan in fear of his very life," he told jurors. "Mo Hassan killed his wife, but he is not guilty of murder in the second degree."

During the trial, Michael and Sonia Hassan testified that their father had become violent in the past, CNN affiliate WIVB in Buffalo reported.

While both said the couple argued, neither recalled a case in which Aasiya -- their stepmother -- instigated a fight.

Police earlier said they had responded to several domestic violence calls at the couple's home, but no one had ever been arrested.

Hassan was the chief executive officer of the network Bridges TV, and Aasiya Hassan was the general manager.

He launched network -- billed as the first English-language cable channel targeting Muslims inside the United States -- in 2004. At the time, Hassan said he hoped the network would balance negative portrayals of Muslims following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Hassan fired three defense attorneys before the trial. Schwartz was the fourth to be dismissed.


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