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The trial of Muzzammil Hassan: Day 2

BUFFALO -- A lineup of prosecution witnesses testified during the second day of the murder trial of Muzzammil "Mo" Hassan.

Hassan, 46, a former television executive of Bridges TV, is accused of the stabbing and beheading death of his 37-year-old wife, Aasiya Zubair Hassan.

The News followed developments in day two of the trial below, including an unusual request by Hassan to cross-examine his daughter and a family babysitter directly. Judge Thomas P. Franczyk denied the request. 

4:49 p.m.: The trial has wrapped up for the day. Testimony is scheduled to continue in the morning.

***

4:38 p.m.: During cross-examination, the Hassan family babysitter, Jennifer Greer, told defense attorney Jeremy Schwartz that it was Aasiya Hassan who told her to stop working for the family in 2008.

"Did she say one of the reasons was because they didn't know what you were telling the children about them?" Schwartz asked Greer.

"She did," Greer replied.

Schwartz also asked questions about whether Greer knew if some of the arguments between Hassan and Aasiya Hassan were over their children -- including whether Aasiya Hassan would take their children out of the country and whether she would try to take the children from him.

Schwartz also asked Greer to clarify that during an incident in which Greer said Hassan drove her off a busy highway that her car was not hit and not damaged. She said that it was not.

During re-direct questioning by the prosecution, Greer said she was told by Aasiya Hassan that her babysitting services were no longer needed a day after she appeared at a child protection services hearing. Hassan, Greer said, saw her and her mother there.

"He came out and pointed to us and told his lawyer, "that's them,'" Greer said.

***

4:27 p.m.: Jennifer Greer, a family babysitter, said Hassan once tried to stop Aasiya Hassan from going to the airport for a trip out of the country by driving his car up next to Greer's and forcing her off the road. 

Greer, during her testimony, said she was driving Aasiya Hassan to the airport when she saw Hassan in her rear-view mirror weaving through traffic on the busy 219.

He then swerved toward Greer's car.

"I put on my brakes very hard, and I ended up stopping halfway in the driving lane and halfway on the shoulder," Greer said.

She added, "traffic was piling up. I could hear screeching tires."

Aasiya Hassan, Greer said, was then afraid to go to the airport because she was concerned Hassan would follow her there. Instead, she asked that Greer take her to Target.

"She asked me to take her there because she wanted somewhere to go where he wouldn't be able to find her," Greer said.

***

4:13 p.m.: The family babysitter, Jennifer Greer, testified that she once saw Hassan dragging Aasiya Hassan across the driveway of their Big Tree Road home.

Greer said she saw Hassan holding his wife under her armpits and grabbing her hair as he dragged her during a fight between the two.

"She was screaming for help," Greer recalled.

Hassan then dragged her behind a car -- where they couldn't be seen from the road -- and "sat on her stomach with all his bodyweight," Greer said. 

***

3:59 p.m.: During cross-examination, Sonia Hassan said she didn't press charges against Hassan during a March 2007 incident because she was afraid her father would seek a court order stating she needed additional supervision.

Sonia Hassan told defense attorney Jeremy Schwartz that a police officer who came to the house told her Hassan planned to seek a "Person in Need of Supervision" order for his daughter if she filed charges against him.

"I felt threatened by it and my step-mom didn't want the order filed," Sonia Hassan said. "So I declined to press charges."

Sonia Hassan and her brother, Michael, testified earlier in the day that Hassan hit her on the back with an open hand in March 2007, setting off a fight between Michael Hassan and his father. During the same fight, both testified, Hassan punched Aasiya Hassan.

Schwartz focused questions on what led to the fight and asked Sonia Hassan whether she had thrown her father's breathing machine and ordered him to the basement.

Sonia Hassan said she didn't recall that, but that it was possible.

Schwartz also asked questions about whether Sonia Hassan knew who had drawn up certain paragraphs in a "memorandum of understanding" between Aasiya Hassan and Hassan. The document spelled out punishments Aasiya Hassan would face if she did not follow certain rules regarding their relationship.

Schwartz closed his cross-examination with questions about whether Aasiya Hassan spoke negatively about Hassan with her step-daughter.

"Did she speak negatively about your father?" Schwartz asked.

"At times," Sonia Hassan replied.

"And you don't like your father?" Schwartz asked.

"Not particularly," Sonia Hassan replied.

Hassan, who earlier requested to cross-examine his daughter, did not speak during his daughter's testimony. 

***

3:17 p.m.: Sonia Hassan testified that her father has repeatedly written letters to her since the night of Aasiya Hassan's death.

In those letters, she said, he has promised "all of his funds and his cars and his various possessions to be released to me if I followed certain conditions."

The conditions, she said, included not speaking ill of her father, Aasiya Hassan or other family members and to visit her father and write him and other family members. Sonia Hassan said she did not reply.

She told prosecutor Colleen Curtin Gable that she knew something had gone terribly wrong the night Aasiya Hassan died because the police took her siblings to the police station.

Sonia Hassan said she got a frantic call from her brother, Michael Hassan, at about 6:20 p.m. saying he was outside the Bridges television station and that Aasiya Hassan was still inside.

"I knew that either she was really injured or she was dead," Sonia Hassan said through tears.

Sonia Hassan also testified that she had seen a "memorandum of understanding" between Hassan and Aasiya Hassan in which the two set in writing that Aasiya Hassan would be subjected to punishment if she did not follow certain rules, including not going to authorities or filing for divorce. The punishments included lost time visiting her family in Pakistan.

Defense attorney Jeremy Schwartz objected to the admission of the alleged agreement. He contended it was not a certified document. Judge Thomas P. Franczyk overruled the objection and allowed Sonia Hassan to read the "contract" out loud.

Sonia Hassan said she had not spoken to Hassan since Aasiya's death.

***

2:52 p.m.: Sonia Hassan testified that, during one fight between Hassan and Aasiya Hassan, her stepmother's nose was bleeding so badly that Sonia wanted to take her to the hospital.

"She was covered in blood and there was just so much blood," said Sonia Hassan, choking back tears.

Hassan, Sonia Hassan said, was attempting to help stop the bleeding and was telling Aasiya Hassan he was sorry.

"In the same breath, he was saying, 'You deserved it; you shouldn't have said that or done that,''" Sonia Hassan recalled.

Sonia Hassan said she never saw Aasiya Hassan initiate a physical fight with Hassan or injure or threaten him.

***

2:41 p.m.:Sonia Hassan testified that her relationship with her step-mother, Aasiya Hassan, grew over time after she and her brother went to live with Aasiya and Mo Hassan.

At first, Sonia Hassan said, they had a bit of a tense relationship because they didn't know her well, but they grew to think of her as a mother.

"She was still a mom, but she was still a friend," Sonia Hassan said.

Sonia Hassan described her relationship with her father as strained and said it worsened over time. 

"It kind of went from bad to worse," Sonia Hassan said.

She described a 2007 incident in which Hassan "open-hand spiked" her on the back, provoking a fight between Hassan and his son, Michael Hassan. Michael Hassan testified earlier in the day to the same incident.

During the fight, Sonia Hassan said, her father turned to Aasiya Hassan and said of his children: "You turned them again me."

Sonia Hassan said her father then punched Aasiya Hassan in the face.

***

2:20 p.m.: Hassan returned from the lunch break with an unusual request for the judge: He wants to cross-examine his daughter, Sonia, and the family's babysitter when they take the stand.

Judge Thomas P. Franczyk denied the request.

"Why would you want to put your daughter through this, directly from you?" Franczyk asked. 

Franczyk said Hassan was not entitled to a "hybrid" defense in which an attorney only handles part of the trial. 

Hassan, who spoke for the first time during the trial, talked to the judge directly when he made the request.

"Your honor, there's a lot of, a lot of details in this case and an extremely high amount of detail," Hassan told the judge.

He later added: "Your honor, there is a lot of detailed information that at the present time my counsel is not aware of."

Defense attorney Jeremy Schwartz, who did not provide a legal basis for the request, added: "Mr. Hassan believes that he has a more intimate personal knowledge to ask these questions." 

Franczyk told Hassan that he had nearly two years to prepare with an attorney for the trial. He also told Hassan that providing a defense is not just about knowledge of the case, but also of legal knowledge of how to proceed at trial.

"It would seem to me that any questions he thinks that you should ask, Mr. Schwartz, he can write down on a piece of paper," Franczyk said.

The daughter, Sonia Hassan, is now on the stand.

***

12:35 p.m.: Judge Thomas P. Franczyk has allowed the jury to take a break for lunch.

***

12:31 p.m.: Defense attorney Jeremy Schwartz started his cross examination of Hassan's son, Michael Hassan, with the question: "You don't like your father very much, do you?"

"No sir," Michael Hassan responded.

Schwartz also focused on walks Michael Hassan would take with his father in which Hassan would talk about the arguments between Hassan and Aasiya Hassan.

Michael Hassan testified he once received a book from Hassan with passages highlighted about verbal abuse.

"Did he express to you that Aasiya verbally abused him?" Schwartz asked.

"Yes," Michael Hassan replied.

Schwartz also asked if Aasiya "likened" Michael's behavior to his father's as an insult. Michael Hassan said it happened on only one occasion that he could remember. 

"Your father likes to talk a lot, doesn't he?" Schwartz later asked.

"Yes," Michael Hassan said.

"He likes to talk about his feelings, right?" Schwartz asked.

"Yes," Michael Hassan said.

"He likes to talk about the things that are bothering him, right?" Schwartz asked. 

"Yes," Michael Hassan said. The son testified that he often didn't agree with his father's viewpoints during those talks.

Schwartz also clarified that Michael Hassan was 15, not 13, when an incident occurred in which he got in a physical fight with Hassan. During that fight, Michael Hassan said, his father hit him and scarred his nose. The fight occurred, Michael Hassan said earlier, after his father took a "swipe" at his older sister.

Schwartz asked Michael Hassan to clarify that it was a "swipe" not a "punch or a kick." 

***

12:01 p.m.: Hassan's son, Michael Hassan, testified that he was "very scared and very nervous" as he waited for his step-mother outside the Bridges television station on the night of her death.

"I'm beginning to fear for Aasiya," Michael Hassan recalled.

In the moments leading up to her death, he said, Aasiya Hassan stopped at the television station to drop off a bag of clean clothes for Hassan.

The offices, he said, "looked deserted." Hassan's Mercedes, he said, was no where in sight.

As Michael Hassan and Aasiya's two children waited in a minivan outside, he heard a loud screech, but thought it was a car on the road. He looked up from a game he was playing on his cell phone, but saw nothing. 

A few minutes later, Michael Hassan said, he saw two lights go on and off and saw Hassan emerge from the building. 

"I'm very scared and very nervous," Michael Hassan recalled. 

Hassan then drove up, handed Michael Hassan an M&T envelop with cash and left. 

Michael Hassan said he grew worried and tried to call his step-mother. He then tried to get into the Bridges television station offices, but the door was locked. He peered into two windows, he said, but it was dark. His younger brother and sister, Aasiya's children, sat in car seats in the back of the minivan.

When the police arrived, he said, he knew something had gone terribly wrong. 

"I'm assuming at that point that Aasiya had been killed," Michael Hassan said. 

Michael Hassan, now 19, said he no longer talks to his father. 

"I don't want to talk to him," Michael Hassan said. "I don't want to have anything to do with him."

***

11:37 a.m.: Michael Hassan, Hassan's son, testified that his father punched him in the face and scarred his nose when he was 13 during an incident in which Hassan also took a swing at his older sister and hit Aasiya Hassan.

Michael is now testifying to a string of incidents in which he said Hassan hit Aasiya Hassan, barred doors to their home so she couldn't leave or pinned her down.

On one occasion, in spring 2008, he saw Hassan -- then about 300 pounds -- kneeling on top of Aasiya Hassan during an argument.

"She was pushing and pulling and trying to get him off of her," Michael Hassan said. "… She was physically distressed. I believe she was having trouble breathing."

Another time, Michael Hassan testified, his mother was bleeding profusely after a fight with Hassan.

"We went through an entire roll of toilet paper trying to stop the bleeding," Michael Hassan said.

The son said he heard his father coming up with a scenario to explain Aasiya's injury -- having him say, "It was a bike accident; that she fell off a bike."

***

11:28 a.m.: Hassan's son, Michael Hassan, testified that he moved into Hassan's Big Tree Road home with Hassan and his step-mother, Aasiya Hassan, in 2004 because of Hassan's continual lecturing.

Michael Hassan said his father lectured him every day and drew up charts comparing school systems to persuade the two children not to move out of state with their biological mother.

"It wasn't like a one-day thing," said Michael Hassan, who is the son of Hassan and Hassan's first wife. "He would do it pretty much every day for the entire summer while we were there."

Hassan eventually obtained a court order to get the children to move to Orchard Park with him and Aasiya Hassan.

Hassan and Aasiya had married in 2000 and had two other children together. 

***

10:55 a.m.:Under cross examination, Defense attorney Jeremy Schwartz focused on whether it is ever a crime to damage one's own property -- whether in a domestic situation or not.

Lt. Joseph Rizzo had previously testified that he was called to Hassan's home and saw a broken window and a bloody Hassan on Feb. 6 during a domestic disturbance. He did not charge Hassan. 

Rizzo said at that time -- Feb. 6, 2009, -- it was not a crime, but the law has since been changed to allow someone to be charged with damaging his or her own property during a domestic violence situation.

Rizzo said he did not charge Hassan during the Feb. 6 call because it was not a crime at the time.

"The bottom is, you found no evidence of a crime and did not charge a crime, correct?" Schwartz asked.

"Correct," Rizzo replied.

Prosecutor Colleen Curtin Gable later clarified that the law changed since the Feb. 2009 incident.

"It is your understanding that the law has since changed, correct?" Curtin Gable said.

"Correct," Rizzo replied.

***

10:44 a.m.: Orchard Park Lt. Joseph Rizzo testified that he was called to the Hassan's Big Tree Road home the night of Feb. 6 because of a domestic disturbance.

The call was several hours after Hassan had been served with divorce papers.

When Rizzo arrived, he said, he saw Hassan outside the home bleeding and with blood-soaked clothes. He also saw a broken pane of glass on the door of the home.

Rizzo told prosecutor Colleen Curtin Gable that he placed Hassan in the back of his police car, but did not arrest him because it was not a crime to damage one's own property.

Rizzo also said he served Hassan with an order or protection issued by the court in conjunction with the divorce proceedings. The order or protection barred Hassan from going near his children. It also ordered him to stay away from Aasiya Hassan outside of normal business hours. 

Rizzo is now testifying about what he saw on the night of Aasiya Hassan's death on Feb. 12.

He testified that Lt. Joseph Buccilli told him at about 6:20 p.m. that Hassan "has just came in and confessed to killing his wife." 

***

10:31 a.m.: Thomas Dunning, an administrative employee at Hogan Willig Attorneys at Law, testified that he served divorce papers on Hassan at the Bridges television station Feb. 6.

Dunning said Hassan had little reaction when the papers were served.

"He wasn't irate with you or anything like that?" Defense attorney Joseph Schwartz asked during cross examination. 

"No," Dunning replied.

Dunning was the first witness called by the prosecution today.

***

10:15 a.m.:Jeremy Schwartz, defense attorney for Hassan, told reporters this morning that he expects testimony today to be similar to what was shown to the jurors on Tuesday.

"There really weren't very many surprises," Schwartz said of the first day of trial. "We've had a lot of months to go over what the prosecution's case is going to be. They proceeded with some witnesses. A lot of it was scientific and some police witnesses that discussed what they found at the scene. The autopsy was done yesterday, and I expect more of the same today."

Read News Staff Reporter Sandra Tan's account of the first day of the trial in "Prosecutor details vicious slaying as Hassan trial opens."

See The News' entire coverage of the Hassan case here

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