Feedback
News

Frank Almond, Stradivarius Robbery Victim, Glad to Keep Playing

Image: Frank Almond plays a 300-year-old Stradivarius violin

In this undated photo provided by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Frank Almond plays a 300-year-old Stradivarius violin that was on loan to him during a concert in Milwaukee. Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra / AP file

Finally, Frank Almond can put the robbery behind him.

He can stop thinking about the man who shot him with a stun gun, snatched a 300-year-old Stradivarius violin from his shoulder and left him writhing on a sub-zero parking lot last January.

That man was sentenced to prison on Monday, ending a crazy, drawn-out and often comical crime saga.

"It's disorienting and it's bizarre, because it's not my world," Almond, 50, told NBC News after leaving the Milwaukee courthouse where his attacker, Salah Salahadyn, was ordered to serve seven years behind bars. "I’m a musician, and all of a sudden I’m thrown into this environment that I just never thought I’d ever have anything to do with."

Almond, concertmaster of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra, is determined not to let the attack, which made international news, define his life or career. He just wants to keep playing that exquisite instrument, worth about $5 million and loaned to him by a wealthy Milwaukee family with minimal conditions. Those terms apparently have not changed with the crime.

Image:
In this undated photo provided by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra is the 300-year-old Stradivarius violin that was stolen from MSO concertmaster Frank Almond. Police said Wednesday, Feb. 5, 2014 three people have been arrested in connection with the theft of the multi-million-dollar instrument that was on loan to Almond. Authorities say a robber used a stun gun on Almond and took the instrument from him in a parking lot. (AP Photo/Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra) AP

"We all kind of went through this together, and they’ve been just as eager to have it played and have me take care of it as they were before," Almond said. "It's been a real journey."

That journey began Jan. 27, after a performance at Wisconsin Lutheran College. Almond was walking to his car, the violin in a case slung over his shoulder, when a man approached him. Before he knew it, Almond was on the ground and the Stradivarius was gone.

Local, federal and international authorities joined the hunt, and nine days later the violin was recovered in the attic of a home whose owner said he didn't know it had been there. The instrument was in "remarkably good condition," Almond said. "A few bumps and bruises but nothing really serious."

Eventually, investigators tracked down Salahadyn, a 42-year-old ex-con who once pleaded guilty to trying to sell a stolen statue to the art gallery that owned it, and an accomplice, Universal K. Allah, a 37-year-old barber who owned the Taser used in the attack. Almond was astonished to learn that the robbers had staked him out, and even knew the names of his two young daughters.

Allah pleaded guilty last May and was sentenced to more than three years in prison. But Salahadyn did what he could to delay reckoning, including a last-minute dismissal of his lawyer. Each postponement kept Almond from moving on. "That takes its toll as you try to live your life," he said.

Almond gave a statement to the court before a judge sentenced Salahadyn on Monday, pointing out that the crime had been planned for a long time, and arguing that Salahadyn didn't appear to show much remorse.

The violinist still lives in Milwaukee with his family, and still plays the Stradivarius, although not at every performance he gives. There is tighter security, at home and on the road. "I don’t think you can go through something like that without looking at things differently," he said.