The founder of an Islam-oriented television station who is accused of beheading his wife was abused by her for years, according to his lawyer, who said Friday he will pursue a defense combining that justification as well as psychiatric claims.
Defense attorneys' claims that Muzzammil Hassan was victimized by his wife drew a blunt response at a hearing Friday from District Attorney Frank Sedita.
"He chopped her head off," Sedita said. "He chopped her head off. That's all I have to say about Mr. Hassan's apparent defense that he was a battered spouse."
Hassan, 45, is charged with one count of second-degree murder in the Feb. 12 death of 37-year-old Aasiya Hassan at the offices of Bridges TV, the station the Pakistan-born couple established in 2004 to counter negative stereotypes of Muslims.
During Friday's hearing ahead of his March trial, Hassan fired the attorney who has been representing him for nearly a year and replaced him with a lawyer who promised "a revolutionary defense."
"The spouse was the dominant figure in this relationship," attorney Frank Bogulski said outside the courtroom. "He was the victim. She was verbally abusive. She had humiliated him."
'She was very gentle'
Nancy Sanders, a former news director at Bridges TV, was skeptical of the abuse claim, noting the stocky Hassan stood over 6 feet tall and "filled a doorway," while Aasiya was slender and several inches shorter.
"I never ever heard her disparage him in the workplace at all," Sanders said. "It just did not seem to be in her nature. She was very gentle."
Bogulski's strategy differs slightly from that of Hassan's previous attorney, James Harrington, who had outlined a psychiatric defense claiming Hassan had experienced extreme emotional disturbance at the time of the killing.
But any psychiatric defense was placed in jeopardy Friday when the judge granted Assistant District Attorney Colleen Curtin Gable's request to bar such claims because the defense had taken too long to reveal its strategy.
Erie County Judge Thomas Franczyk left the door open for Bogulski to file motions seeking to have a psychiatric defense reinstated.
Hassan was served with divorce papers a week before his wife's body was found stabbed and decapitated at the offices of their television station in Orchard Park, the Buffalo suburb where the couple also lived with their two small children and Muzzammil's two teenagers from a previous marriage.
Hassan was arrested after walking into the Orchard Park police station Feb. 12 and telling officers his wife was dead.