Muzzammil Hassan came to the United States from Pakistan at age 17, eventually graduating magna cum laude with an MBA from the William E. Simon Graduate School of Business Administration at the University of Rochester in 1996. He went on to become a successful banker in Buffalo, New York.
In 2004, his wife Aasiya prompted him to develop “an American Muslim media where her kids could grow up feeling really strong about their identity as an American Muslim.” Hassan expressed belief that some moderate Muslims could not identify with the extreme stereotypes often depicted in Hollywood productions and said that such Muslims “think they are not accurately portrayed” and that “Bridges TV gives American Muslims a voice and will depict them in everyday, real life situations.” “Every day on television we are barraged by stories of a ‘Muslim extremist, militant, terrorist, or insurgent,'” Hassan said in the 2004 release. “But the stories that are missing are the countless stories of Muslim tolerance, progress, diversity, service and excellence that Bridges TV hopes to tell.” The Hassans received an award for this effort from the Council on American-Islamic Relations in 2007.
Arrest and conviction of murder
In February 2009, Hassan was arrested and charged with beheading his estranged wife Aasiya Zubair. According to Orchard Park
police, Hassan came to the police station at 6:20 pm on February 12, 2009, the day of the killing, and reported his wife dead. Her body was found at the TV station. Police had previously visited the Hassans’ home in response to domestic incidents. They were most recently called to the residence February 6, 2009, the day Hassan was served with divorce papers and an order of protection, where it is reported he was banging on doors and even broke a window. Hassan said in an interview after his arrest that he “felt an incredible amount of relief” after he killed his wife. “I felt like I had escaped from an Al Qaeda terrorist camp and the safest place was the Orchard Park Police Station. I felt safe and secure with them.” Hassan’s sister-in-law, Asma, in South Africa said that Asiya was abused, and feared for her life.
The divorce petition cited “violence and inhuman treatment” as the reason. Police reports indicated that Zubair stated her husband’s abusive and controlling behavior had begun at least six years earlier. Muzzammil Hassan was arraigned before Village Justice Deborah Chimes and sent to the Erie County Holding Center. Sources claimed to be close to the case said hunting knives were used to commit the crime.
Prosecutor Colleen Curtin Gable said Hassan, who is stocky and over 6 feet tall, bought two hunting knives less than an hour before the attack, then parked his SUV out of view at the station, and hid in wait inside the station to await his wife. When Hassan’s wife walked through the door, he stabbed her more than 40 times in the face, back and chest and decapitated her, some of which was caught on surveillance video. Their 4- and 6-year-old children, plus a teenage son from one of his two previous marriages, were left buckled into car seats outside in a van during the murder.
Hassan, who dismissed four defense attorneys and acted as his own lawyer during the trial, used his two-hour closing remarks telling the jury how he was a slave to his wife’s rages. However, Hassan never produced any witnesses or evidence to that substantiated his abuse claims, while prosecutors cited numerous police reports filed by his wife and her medical records which testified to her being the battered spouse.
The New York state jury convicted Muzzammil “Mo” Hassan of second-degree murder after an hour of deliberation. Erie County District Attorney Frank Sedita said the sentence was the maximum amount that could be imposed under state law, and that Hassan will not be “eligible to talk to the parole board” for 25 years. “The chances of him getting out before his sentence is completed is not going to happen.” A protection order on behalf of Hassan’s two children was also issued by Erie County Judge Thomas Franczyk.
A prosecutor has accused Hassan of stabbing his wife 40 times before beheading her because she filed for divorce six days before. Hassan’s lawyer, Jeremy Schwartz, claims Hassan was beaten by his wife and feared for his life. Hassan initially pleaded not guilty to the charge of second-degree murder. The trial began on Tuesday, January 18, 2011. On Monday, January 24, Hassan gained permission from Judge Thomas Franczyk to represent himself after repeatedly trying to dismiss his own defense attorney, Jeremy Schwartz. Hassan did admit, however, that he had beaten his wife repeatedly between December 2007 and March 2008.
On January 24, Hassan asked for the case to be dismissed, citing lack of evidence by the prosecution. This request was denied. On the same day, text messages between Hassan and his wife from the date of the murder were released as evidence. In an unusual turn, Hassan asked to represent himself. After first denying him, Erie County Court Judge Thomas Franczyk eventually granted his request. He testified on the 27th and 28 January, with his former defense attorney Jeremy Schwartz acting as his legal adviser.
Hassan is currently incarcerated in Clinton Correctional Facility. His parole hearing date is set for October 2033.