The world is a dangerous place, not because of those who do evil,
but because of those who look on and do nothing.

~~~ Albert Einstein



Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Is that your poker face?

(side note, I've previously written about this case, however I've borrowed from both prior posts, in order to give a more well rounded single post here---
previous posts: letters-from-myspace.html
nbc-trades-to-catch-predator-in-for-new.html)


In November of 1995, a then barely known Iranian born California resident was convicted for violations of California penal codes 243.4 D and 647.6. Those charges amount to:


Penal Code 243.4 D--- (d) Any person who, for the purpose of sexual arousal, sexual gratification, or sexual abuse, causes another, against that person's will while that person is unlawfully restrained either by the accused or an accomplice, or is institutionalized for medical treatment and is seriously disabled or medically incapacitated, to masturbate or touch an intimate part of either of those persons or a third person, is guilty of sexual battery. A violation of this subdivision is punishable by imprisonment in a county jail for not more than one year, and by a fine not exceeding two thousand dollars ($2,000); or by imprisonment in the state prison for two, three, or four years, and by a fine not exceeding ten thousand dollars ($10,000).

Penal Code 647.6--

(a) (1) Every person who annoys or molests any child under 18 years of age shall be punished by a fine not exceeding five thousand dollars ($5,000), by imprisonment in a county jail not exceeding one year, or by both the fine and imprisonment.

(2) Every person who, motivated by an unnatural or abnormal sexual interest in children, engages in conduct with an adult whom he or she believes to be a child under 18 years of age, which conduct, if directed toward a child under 18 years of age, would be a violation of this section, shall be punished by a fine not exceeding five thousand dollars ($5,000), by imprisonment in a county jail for up to one year, or by both that fine and imprisonment.

(b) Every person who violates this section after having entered, without consent, an inhabited dwelling house, or trailer coach as defined in Section 635 of the Vehicle Code, or the inhabited portion of any other building, shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison, or in a county jail not exceeding one year, and by a fine not exceeding five thousand dollars ($5,000).

(c) (1) Every person who violates this section shall be punished upon the second and each subsequent conviction by imprisonment in the state prison.

(2) Every person who violates this section after a previous felony conviction under Section 261, 264.1, 269, 285, 286, 288a, 288.5, or 289, any of which involved a minor under 16 years of age, or a previous felony conviction under this section, a conviction under Section 288, or a felony conviction under Section 311.4 involving a minor under 14 years of age shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for two, four, or six years.

(d) (1) In any case in which a person is convicted of violating this section and probation is granted, the court shall require counseling as a condition of probation, unless the court makes a written statement in the court record, that counseling would be inappropriate or ineffective.

(2) In any case in which a person is convicted of violating this section, and as a condition of probation, the court prohibits the defendant from having contact with the victim, the court order prohibiting contact shall not be modified except upon the request of the victim and a finding by the court that the modification is in the best interest of the victim. As used in this paragraph, "contact with the victim" includes all physical contact, being in the presence of the victim, communication by any means, any communication by a third party acting on behalf of the defendant, and any gifts.

(e) Nothing in this section prohibits prosecution under any other provision of law.


For those convictions,Shahram Sheikhan was sentenced to nine months in jail and five years probation for sexual battery and child molestation.

The piece covering the case which ran in the Contra Costa Times, is no longer available for online viewing with out purchase (copy can be purchased here) , but I was able to request and receive a full copy of the report from them:

11/22/1995

Manager gets 9 months for molestation
Byline: CATHERINE HEDGECOCK and CAROLYN MCMILLAN
WALNUT CREEK - The manager of a downtown youth clothing and amenities store has been sentenced to nine months in jail for sexual battery and child molestation involving two teen-age girls he met at the store.
Shahram Sheikan, who goes by the first name Shawn, ran the Diversity store, owned by his family, at 1419 Broadway. The store sells clothing, posters, cards, backpacks and other items geared toward teen-agers.
A jury last week convicted Sheikan of three misdemeanor counts of child molestation for verbal sexual harassment of two girls who were 16 and 17 at the time of the incidents last year. The jury also found him guilty of one misdemeanor count of sexual battery against the younger girl. He was sentenced Monday.
Two other teens testified against Sheikan during his trial, but Sheikan was not convicted on any charges related to them. The jury acquitted Sheikan on two counts and deadlocked on the rest, said Walnut Creek-Danville Municipal Court Judge Bruce Mills.
The girls testified that Sheikan, 26, repeatedly asked them for sex, and became increasingly aggressive after they turned him down. Eventually, he began physically pulling them onto his lap and demanding hugs. In one incident, he put his hands down the younger girl's pants, she said.
"I felt like a piece of meat," she said. "We felt we should stand up for ourselves. I had nightmares about him, and I didn't want other people to have to go through this."
In an interview Tuesday at the County Jail in Martinez, Sheikan said the convictions were "all just a big misunderstanding." The climate of the store was one full of flirtation and sexual innuendo, he said.
"When I first opened the store, we had tons of girls girls and guys who wanted to hang out and be part of something. All day long I would have to hear what guys they wanted to be with. . . they were constantly talking about sex."
He did not deny trial testimony that he tried to persuade the two girls to have sex in exchange for a skateboard, but said he was kidding.
"It was just a big joke and that's why I'm sitting in this hole." Sheikan said. "I am not a criminal. I'm a businessman. I don't prey on young girls."
During sentencing Mills admonished Sheikan for denying under oath that the crimes took place and said Sheikan's testimony was not credible.


That might have been the end of Sheikhan's time in the spotlight for his crimes, and his past could easily have been swept under the carpet. Except that Skeikhan caught the attention of Tom Somach of PokerHelper.com, who proceeded to write a short piece on Sheikan's past, which was picked up by Gambling911.com , Even I have to admit that it's odd for gambling related websites to post about convicted sex offenders, but it just happens that Shahram "Shawn" Sheikhan is a big name in the poker world- big enough in fact that he's appeared on NBC's Poker After Dark.

Some might take this moment to point out that this is the very same network that gave us To Catch A Predator, and my run of the mill commentary on this has been that they must have swapped To Catch a Predator to To Gamble with a Child Molester.

Of course, the story has become more interesting since it first was published, as PokerHelper was on the receiving end of a few words in regards to putting the information out there:

“I am the attorney for Shahram Sheikhan and am writing to you to immediately put you on notice that your previously published allegation about my client is defamatory and untrue,” wrote Las Vegas attorney David Chesnoff in an e-mail. “We are requesting that you immediately print a retraction that he is not a convicted rapist.”

In a news story last week, PokerHelper.com reported that Sheikhan was one of six poker pros appearing all week on NBC’s “Poker After Dark” television show. The story also noted Sheikhan’s criminal past–a sex crime 13 years ago for which he served time in prison, and for which the U.S. government tried to deport him last year to his native Iran.


Even Gambling911 was included in the demands for a retraction:
"The judge knows that Shawn never raped anyone. Rape is a felony, especially against a child, yet the writer states he was convicted on misdemeanor charges. He did not rape a child as the author's piece claims. The poker community knows this, and this amounts to nothing more than a vicious attack on Shawn's character, a man who paid for his mistakes years ago under the guidelines of the law."

Oehring would not comment on the specifics of Sheikhan's case either. Instead, he demanded that Somach's article be yanked from the Gambling911.com website. Somach is one of a series of respected online gambling veteran reporters who allows his content to be reprinted on the G911 site just as Oehring's releases are published on the site as a courtesy to promote his television venture.


A vicious attack on Sheikhan huh? Let's go back to the article printed in 1995- and compare the feelings of one of the FOUR victims, to just how 'vicious' this must be for the Sheik:

Eventually, he began physically pulling them onto his lap and demanding hugs. In one incident, he put his hands down the younger girl's pants, she said.
"I felt like a piece of meat," she said.


Now, if you didn't catch the reference to NBC, or my previous posts on Sheikhan, then you might be in for a interesting twist in this case. It seems that Sheikhan, one of the stars of the Poker After Dark series that airs of NBC, has even been defended by the producer, thinks this is pretty much just insane to be worried about- after all, he's paid for his crime. His profile (linked above) starts out with an interesting slice of information, given his history- I'm not sure if it was the best choice for use as a descriptive of him:
Though a few might heartily disagree, Sharhram Sheikhan, Shawn, to his friends, insists he's a good guy.


Of course, ICE didn't think that it was insane, as they attempted to have him deported last year because of the convictions. Documents from the deportation case are in the links below.
http://lostinlimaohio.googlepages.com/show_case_doc1.pdf
http://lostinlimaohio.googlepages.com/show_case_doc2.pdf
http://lostinlimaohio.googlepages.com/show_case_doc3.pdf

The case for deportation was, according to sources 'in the know' lost mainly because the courts which held his conviction only keep records for 10 years before destroying them. Currently more than one person is in search of any trace of the entire case that might remain, but ICE's case against him has been dropped until further findings.

But that's not the poker players entire story- interestingly enough, it seems that the "Sheik" as he refers to himself on his myspace page, was also responsible for a wreck that took the life of an elderly woman:
One of the two deaths attributed to the storm was the result of an auto accident just after 11 a.m., when a car hydroplaned in the northwest part of the valley.

A Mercedes, driven by Las Vegan Shahram Sheikhan, 29, was traveling at speeds too fast for the slick road conditions on Buffalo Drive just north of Charleston Boulevard, Metro Police said.

The Mercedes slid across the raised center median of southbound Buffalo and struck a Lincoln traveling in the northbound lanes, police said.

The female passenger, 91-year-old Dorathy Ohriner of Las Vegas, died at the scene, the Clark County Coroner's office said today. The Lincoln was driven by Neil Ohriner, 66, also of Las Vegas, police said.

Sheikhan and Mr. Ohriner were taken to University Medical Center with moderate injuries.


I don't know about you, but when I read that Sheikhan 'insists he's a good guy', I have to wonder if he's wearing his poker face as the words come outta his mouth.

Special thanks to Gambling911.com and PokerHelper.com for exposing what just might be the Sheik's worst hand. And be sure to check out Steve Huff's take on the situation at Radar.com, while you're there- be sure to recommend the story.