A 44-year-old Anaheim man has been acquitted of sexually assaulting his two daughters, but he still faces sentencing Thursday for threatening one of his daughters.
Talal Chami has served more than the three-year sentence he faces as he awaited trial, so Thursday’s hearing will involve legal housekeeping as attorneys and a judge determine how much time he would have to serve on parole, according to his attorney Jennifer Nicolalde of the Orange County Public Defender’s Office.
Chami was acquitted of multiple sexual assault and child abuse and endangerment charges on March 30, according to court records. He was convicted of one felony count of criminal threats.
Chami was in jail from his arrest in April 2017 until March 30 when he was released on his own recognizance.
Nicolalde argued at trial that her client was set up by the daughters, one who was 14 at the time and the other who was 9 at the time the allegations were lodged with police in 2017.
“They essentially wanted my client out of the house,” Nicolalde said. “He is a very conservative practicing Muslim who ruled the household according to both his cultural as well as his religious beliefs and his oldest daughter, who was more American-raised, was completely opposed to the restrictions he was putting on her.”
The daughters were born in the United States but were raised for a short time in Syria “at a very young age,” the attorney said. Ultimately, the family fled the civil war-torn country, Nicolalde said.
“At the time this was all happening there was a trend within the Muslim community where Americanized children were bullying their parents, threatening to make false accusations against them of either physical or sexual abuse to bully them into being Americanized and stepping into the American culture.”
When Chami was arrested, Anaheim police said there was a “covert call” between the eldest daughter and the defendant in which authorities said he admitted abusing the victims and apologized.
Nicolalde, however, said there was a language barrier.
“When the covert calls initially happened she makes comments regarding sexual abuse in English and he says to her, `I don’t understand when you speak English,”’ Nicolalde said.
Chami said he was sorry for the differences between them and he wanted to move on to a “new chapter,” Nicolalde said.
But when the teen repeated the allegations of sexual assaults in Arabic, he denied them, according to the attorney.
He repeatedly called her a liar, and told her “damn you, go to hell” for the accusations, Nicolalde said.
He was also accused of trying to prevent the eldest daughter from contacting a school counselor, but the defense attorney said when he caught her taking off her hijab at school and finding makeup and clothing that he felt was inappropriate in her backpack he threatened to start home-schooling her, Nicolalde said.
Jurors deliberated for about a day before reaching verdicts, she said.
“They felt it was a complete travesty what happened to Mr. Chami,” Nicolalde said. “They felt the police officer should have investigated more,” regarding the trends of children attempting to bully Muslim parents, Nicolalde said.
“It came down to credibility and they didn’t believe the (eldest daughter) and felt the younger sister was easily impressionable,” the attorney added.
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