“You’re the corrupt band I was speaking about…Even your little notebook confirms what I’m saying.” — Joseph K. in The Trial
“Kaveh is naïve enough to think that he can prevail over the resources of Harvard.” — Mike Wallace of 60 Minutes
The Fictitious Crime Story
“Mr. Afrasiabi. The DA has just given me this piece of paper telling me that after due investigation there is no evidence connecting you to any of these charges. Go home, you are free, and thank God that you live in a free society where there is due process of law.” These were the exact words of the judge presiding at my initial pre-trial hearing more than four months after my arrest.
”Thank you, your honor. It’s Dr. Afrasiabi. While I am happy that these charges against me have been dropped, I am very unhappy that they were attached to me in the first place. The damage has been done. I have lost my job, my income, my reputation has been severely damaged, and I have incurred tremendous costs, not to mention the emotional pain on me and my family. I am a university professor with no prior criminal record, why was I kept in jail without bail, and why did the Harvard detective even claim that I had confessed my crime to him, isn’t there a penalty for false confession?” I was representing myself, simply to save more money from going to lawyers.
The judge, in his mid-sixties and listening to me intently, asked, “what false confession?” and then began searching through my file but couldn’t find it.
“Your honor, on the day of the bail hearing, when my accuser showed up in court and did not identify me, this Harvard detective introduced a statement at the eleventh hour that said Afrasiabi on his way to the station admitted to his crime and said, “I’m sorry, I get mad sometimes, but I promise it will not happen again, same exact statement that is in the so-called extortionist’s apology letter.”
“Who said that?” The judge asked.
“The Harvard detective, his name is Richard Mederos. He also claimed that he had gone to my high school, Thayer Academy, and that there had been no record of my attendance there. Mederos said those things your honor to prevent my pre-trial release. He failed in that because I had a dozen professors in court supporting me, as well as several distinguished members of my community and newspaper reporters scrutinizing this charade, but the charges would have been dropped had Mederos not lied about the confession and my high school.”
”Thayer Academy, good school, did you go to Thayer?”
”Of course I did, for three years and I graduated from there. Dave Silk was my classmate, you know from the ice hockey dream team.”
”Oh sure. So why did this detective say those things because, as I told you, this note from the DA says there is no evidence you had anything to do with these charges.”
There was a different DA in the courtroom that day and the previous one, David Losier, was conspicuously absent.
“Well, your honor, the same DA, not this gentleman, was the one who introduced detective Mederos’s statement at the bail hearing and insisted that they had “more incriminating evidence” against me, something that the DA’s spokesperson went and told the media after I was released. So my question is: isn’t there a penalty for perjury, for making up false confessions in order to incriminate a person?”
”Yes there is, and if you feel strongly about it, go ahead and sue them, that’s your right, but this is not the proper forum for that, as I said Mr. Afrasiabi, go home to your wife and your children and enjoy the rest of the day.”
But I was unrelenting, “just one final word your honor and thank you for your patience. For your information, a couple of weeks ago our landlord evicted us because of the commotion and controversy of my pre-dawn arrest and my wife has left me. Second, although I am a political scientist and not a lawyer, I know enough about law to know that it is in your honor’s discretion to ask the reasonable question from these gentlemen why they kept insisting that they had “more evidence” against me when it turns out they didn’t? I’d really like to know.”
The judge was getting impatient, one quick look at the DA, who shrugged in indifference, and then he reminded me that I was not the only case in his court that day and it was already taking too much time.
”Fine, but for the record your due process of law frankly leaves a lot to be desired.” I said and left the courtroom in disgust.
“Which theater are you playing at?” In The Trial the lines between theatrical role performance and the adjudication of law are completely blurred, as are the distinctions between rational and the irrational and the totally banal. For several months I had lived under a darkly cloud, suspect, and even now that the charges had been dropped, despite what the judge said, per the official court transcript in my possession, the DA’s spokeswoman, Jill Reilly, would nonetheless go and tell the media that the charges were “dropped due to insufficient evidence and in the interest of justice.” In other words, not because they felt I was innocent, but simply as a matter of procedural expediency given their heavy workload. Clearly they wanted to have their cake and eat it too, this as their final service to the behemoth Harvard that wanted me permanently infected with a trace of that stigma, a suspect, thus the title of Harvard Crimson’s next article after I got out on bail: Post-doctoral fellow will stand trial.
That article is still one of the first few things fleshed out on google by any one searching my name, even though The Crimson had subsequent articles reporting about my law suit, yet somehow those articles have vanished from the internet, the only one remaining being the one citing my impending trial – that never took place since I was fully exonerated at the initial pre-trial.
Yet, such newspaper reports presented more than sufficient material for the associated network of Mottahedeh at various universities and institutes, such as the Middle East Institute, to feign ignorance of the full story while simultaneously relying on their poison to assure themselves that placing me on their blacklist was indeed justified. The Crimson article’s worst part was the DA’s allegation that they had more evidence.
”You either retract your statement in lieu of the judge’s statement in court or I will file a law suit, which will it be?” I said sternly to the Middlesex Superior Court’s spokeswoman on the phone. She was perplexed, asked me to hold the line “one second” and never came back, nor would pick up after repeat dials and messages left on her extension number.
Making good on my ultimatum, within two days I hit them with a defamation lawsuit and made sure that my first press release got the attention of the editor of the “news brief” section of the Boston Globe, same section that four months earlier had broke the news about “Iranian professor charged with extortion.” That was sufficient embarrassment to them and, knowing that they would invoke judicial immunity, I did not even bother appearing at the first hearing in that case which, as expected, was dismissed. Three years later, however, I had my day with the DA, David Losier by summoning him to court and cross-examining him at length.
”So, when your office said you had “more evidence” against Kaveh Afrasiabi, what did that evidence consist of?”
”Well, there was the Harvard police report,” Losier answered, per the trial transcript. Any other presiding judge might have interrupted and said, “are you kidding me, since when a police report counts as evidence.” My judge was taking his Kafkasque nap however. Fact was that they did not have even a scintilla of evidence and they all knew it and, yet, had fought as best as they could to keep me in jail, by resorting to any sick tactic in their books. If anything, the police report was a prima fasci evidence of a malicious conspiracy against me and soon I would use it to my advantage in my civil rights action.
“We had pity on him and so we let him go.” Professor Roy Mottahedeh would go around and viciously tell various people, implying that I was guilty of the charges – same charges that he and his subordinates had concocted with the help of Harvard police of course. The perpetrators of the grotesque injustice were now trying look like kind-hearted Samaritans who had pity on me, perhaps even expecting me to send them a thank you note. It would take a long legal battle against their horde before I was able to see through their distorted Kafkasque personality — that simply did not distinguish between truth and lies, that self-deludingly stuck to their make-believe lies without the slightest hint of moral qualm.
”Your biggest mistake Kaveh is that you think that they have any conscience, they don’t, so wake up and smell the coffee, their only interest is to protect their power and privileges.” These words came from attorney Birch right after the bail hearing when I expressed my astonishment that respected people from Harvard can be such big liars. Regarding Thayer Academy, sure enough I would subsequently learn from their alumni office that they had indeed received a call from Harvard police and had confirmed “to him” that I had been a student there. No matter, at that critical juncture in my criminal case, detective Mederos was doing everything humanly possible to destroy on my credibility in the eye of the judge who was weighing the pros and cons of releasing me on bail, even if that meant that Mederos would be putting himself up for major headache down the road. But perhaps not, since they knew the inside out of my life, that my resources were too meager for a legal bout with them: according to Mederos’s own “investigation” notes, he had even gone to my bank and received a copy of my bank statement.
“But why did you give it him? Did he serve you with a subpoena?” “No, sorry you’re right, may be I shouldn’t have, but he was from Harvard,” the bank assistant manager told me one day, a couple of years later when after discovery I found out about Mederos’s poking his head into all aspects of my life prior to arresting me. In other words, I had been an open book to Harvard police well before they knocked on my door and seized my liberty via fictional charges that they had concocted. The disappearance of personal privacy is The Trial’s first insight.
The suppressed evidence of conspiracy
“This will win the case and kill that guy.” These lines are from the trial transcript of Afrasiabi versus Harvard, Mederos, Mottahedeh, etc., in day five of the trial three years later, when I showed the honorable justice, Michael Harrington, the written findings of two hand-writing experts confirming that detective Mederos’s hand-writing matched the hand-writing of the purported “extortionist.” The judge was pointing at defendant Mederos sitting quietly at a corner, and would instruct me to bring my experts to testify the next day and, yet, the next morning he would change his mind and tell me that “I have thought about it and I am not going to let them testify and if you tell the jury about that letter, I will call a mistrial, you hear.”
That judge had made a spectacle of the great American justice, but he was not alone and even the three justices of the federal Appellate Court would make a mockery of justice by inverting the facts in their negative ruling by erroneously claiming that the purpose of the hand-writing expert was “to prove that he (Afrasiabi) did not write the threat letters.” I was completely flabbergasted when I saw that even the mighty justices of the federal appeals court are so powerless when it comes to dispensing with justice against Harvard, as if Harvard was their absolute monarch that tolerated not even a trickle of blemish, certainly not how the American founding fathers foresaw about the great republic. I would write back a motion to vacate their unfair ruling, reminding the appeals judges that in my oversized pleading backed by trial transcript, I had made a competent case that the trial judge erred in excluding the hand-writing evidence that proved my allegation of a “civil conspiracy.” Yet, there would be no relief whatsoever from the errand hands of this nightmare that caused a setback for me every time I seemed to be gaining a step or two.
Consequently, my ordeal kept reminding me of the line in The Trial, “but they also prevent an actual acquittal.” How else my ace hand-writing evidence would turn upside down and be brazenly and shamelessly misrepresented as a suppressed evidence of my lack of guilt, when the whole purpose, the sole aim, of it was to prove that the police officer who had procured an arrest warrant for me on five counts of death threats and extortion was also the person who had invented the whole fictitious crime story by narrating the threat and extortion notes?
“Kaveh is innocent enough to think that he can prevail over the resources of Harvard,” CBS’s Mike Wallace had been quoted in the papers the day after his testimony on my behalf, in February 1999. The older, wiser, and definitely more seasoned Wallace knew what he was talking about and, yet, I kept persisting, maintaining my fight for justice, hoping that somehow at the end of the day there would be a light at the end of the tunnel, that after so many years of personal sacrifice and diligent work, mastering the rope of law and practicing it, by going to dozens upon dozens of hearings and filing in excess of 700 motions and briefs in state and federal courts over 7 years, there would be a measure of relief for my horrendously long list of losses. I was mistaken, there would be none and, what is more, the mere fact that I made advances against my adversaries here and there, by forcing my civil rights complaint to a jury trial by defeating their so many motions to dismiss and for summary judgment, only meant that they became angrier and more resolute, adding to their determination to make sure that I would come out completely empty-handed, and certainly more impoverished by single handedly going the whole nine yard – not only to the US Supreme but also the Massachusetts Appeals Court and the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court.
The attorney who walked out on me on eve of the civil rights trial
May be I should have known that I was fighting a hopeless cause, that the Goliath had stepped on me like a mad elephant simply because it had no fear of any backlashes, least of all legal backlashes since it controlled the nerves of law like ropes in its palms. What else explained the fact that an attorney that I had hired and paid in full ($5000 on borrowed money) to represent me at the jury trial in the federal court, a prominent African-American attorney named Margaret Burnham, would renege on her signed contract with me and some 24 hours prior to the trial excuse herself, and that the next day the judge would reject my plea to postpone the trial until I procured another attorney.
“It’s now or never, the choice is yours.”
“But your honor, my attorney walked out on me and here is her signature on the contract, what am I supposed to do?”
”I don’t know. Take her to the Board of Bar Overseers.” The judge meant the legal watchdog that supposedly monitors the behavior of lawyers in town, occasionally dishing out reprimands to those found guilty of conduct unbecoming an attorney, but in my particular case, despite Burnham’s clear violation of her contractual duty to represent me, she would not receive the slightest slap on the wrist (let alone disbarred as I had demanded). If only I had listened to Mike Wallace, whose wise words shed so much light on the inner working of the Kafkasque nightmare I had been grappling with, may be then I would have saved a few precious years from going to waste solely as a result of my naïve faith in the judicial system, in the myth of American democracy. In retrospect, my stubborn resistance to all the vital signs of this Kafkasque sub-basement reality reigning supreme beneath all the façade, stemmed from the lack of any alternative on my part: I had been expelled from the academia, defamed, kept under a thin though effective air of permanent suspicion, and reduced to poverty.
To fight back in courts and seek a just remedy for all the damage that my unconscionable enemies at Harvard had done to me seemed therefore not only as the right thing to do, but rather as the only thing to do, particularly since I still harbored some illusion of equal justice – just ice it proved though. I confess it was an illusion based partly on an exaggerated sense of my own ability, to master the art of legal warfare and to defeat them in their own game. Another reason for doing so was my deluding myself into thinking that I was dealing with minimally rational and decent people crowding the courtrooms, judges, clerks, lawyers, prosecutors, mediators, who could see through the deceits and detect the humongous concoctions only if they bothered to examine the Harvard police incident report — regarding the crimes allegedly perpetrated on Mottahedeh’s subordinates.
The question of rationality
The question bothered me: how could seemingly rational and intelligent people, from police officers, to prosecutors, to judges, and even aspects of the media, adopt at face value a crime story that was full of contradictions, inconsistencies, and fantastic descriptions befitting a Hollywood B-movie? Often what mattered most to people was that the police report came from Harvard and, since Harvard was above suspicion that meant that whatever its content had to be true and accepted as facts. That, it turned out, was part of my constant punishment, to be tortured and traumatized by a police report that reeked of deceit and dishonesty and yet I had to keep reading for the sake of deciphering its details. How many endless hours I spent poring over the police report, analyzing it and over-analyzing it, deciphering its content, and reading it detective-like, trying to pin point its flaws and inconsistencies, as if any of that mattered and that there would ever be a credible justice system that cared to weed out the lies from the truth.
“Your honor, as you can see in the police report, there was a serious threat to kill by the gentleman and he could be a threat to the witnesses that would make his release inadvisable.” The DA at the bail hearing insisted, and this was right after my accuser, Rana, had not identified me at an “identification session” in the next room half an hour earlier. As usual, there was always “the police report.” The suspect had also allegedly sent Rana a letter admitting to the extortion and apologized, and that is not to mention the false confession and Mederos’s false claim that I had lied about my education at Thayer Academy.
The self-incriminating letters:
“I am return your money because I don’t want it. Please I apologize with all my heart to you. I am also write to Mis Shobhana and office with my apology. So sorry and do apologize to you very much. May Almighty always be with you. Your personality give me courage to write to you again. I will try to make better life.”
This is the exact content of the letter supposedly received by one of professor Mottahedeh’s subordinates named Reza Alavi. Full of grammatical errors, the letter’s malicious attribution to me carried the additional pain of depicting me as an imbecile in English language.
Same thing with the second letter: “Dear Miss Shobhana. This letter is deep apology to you from me. I am also write to Mr. Alavi and told him that I am very sorry for so much problems. May God always bless you very much. I know I cause you much trouble and problems.”
How much fun detective Mederos and Roy Mottahedeh and company must have had in concocting those letters and attaching them to me – to inflict pain after pain by the mere narrative that depicted a total loser and a bum. And how naïve of me not knowing for so many years the depths of their sickness, which was why I would let myself be tormented by the mere question that never left my mind: How outrageous? How could they pin such pathetic letters on me, a post-doctoral fellow who has published books and in New York Times, etc.? Those were legitimate yet wrong questions because in retrospect I realize that the perpetrators wanted me to suffer by the incessant invasion of such bothersome questions that ate at my peace of mind and serenity, though at the same time also gave me a false hope that this was yet another discrepancy that I could point out to the courts to prove my case. Again, my fundamental failure to realize that I had been thrown into a perverse Kafkasque marshland that defied reason or elementary justice was my biggest handicap — that kept feeding me that false hope.
The Alice-in-Wonderland Meet the FBI’s Old Hand Story
By all indications, someone at Harvard had pulled an old FBI trick from some dusted file. The late professor Murray Levin had nearly nailed it in his letter to the president of Harvard University, by describing the Harvard police report as a “fantastic orgy of Alice-in-Wonderland meet detective Colombo, perfect for Harvard Lampoon.” Levin had taught courses on American politics his entire life and instantly branded the whole affair as “McCarthyite pure and simple.” He was a dictionary of countless FBI stories during the McCarthy era when the FBI agents “planted and concocted evidence” and would go to any length to smear and nab suspected communists. But, how did a Harvard detective and his friends know such things? Levin’s answer: you have to look beyond them and cast your gaze wider.
I did, and low and behold, found one, Allan Ryan, working at Harvard’s general counsel office, who had spent years working for the FBI before coming to Harvard. A wolf in sheep skin, attorney Ryan had had his FBI-style practices with some progressive student groups before me, in one case taking advantage of school inter-session holiday to ram through a court a ruling against them, and was apparently in the full swing of things against me.
This much would become clear later on when I took the deposition of Roy Mottahedeh and asked him, for instance, “you said that after receiving the letter of attorney Kevin Molloy representing Afrasiabi, warning of a law suit against you, you went to the general counsel’s office. Who specifically did you talk to?” Mottahedeh’s answer: Allan Ryan. A sneaky guy who never signed on as attorney on record to represent Harvard, preferring to conduct the whole theater of operation against me from behind the scenes, Ryan was a fixture at all the hearings, depositions, and, of course, throughout the jury trial, always dictating the front line lawyers that the university had hired and never once speaking at any of those events, except twice..
One was at Mike Wallace’s deposition, which took place at Wallace’s office at the CBS building in New York, and I immediately objected to Ryan’s presence since he had not signed on as an attorney in the case. We argued for a good half an hour until I saw that we may lose precious time with Wallace and relented. In the video deposition, the bearded Ryan can be heard letting Wallace know that one of his relatives knew Wallace from alumni fundraising at University of Michigan. That’s right, exploiting every chance to impress the witness, in the dim hope that Wallace, who had already sent his letter to judge Tauro, would recant or change his version of the Mottahedeh story. Much to the chagrin of attorney Ryan and the other attorney, Richard Riley, Wallace did not do so, and in fact, went out of his way to shower me with praise. Wallace too had read the police report and knew of the ferocious duplicity of its content.
The second time Ryan actually spoke at a proceeding in my civil action against Harvard was in October 1998, when a federal judge proposed a settlement, consisting of some $300,000 and a two year research fellowship for me at Harvard “to recover from the losses.” That was right after Harvard’s motion to dismiss had been defeated, thanks to my intense efforts, and Harvard was on the defensive, partly as a result of an impressive show of force, by numerous American academics, whose presence in the court room that day clearly impressed the judge who said bluntly, “this man has been damaged and needs to be compensated. So, here is what I propose,” judge Harrington said with his usual loud voice. Both Harvard attorneys, Riley and Ryan, after whispering with each other, got up and concurred with the judge’s proposal, so did I, and the judge asked me to write my consent to the agreement, which I did within 24 hours, but not so with Harvard, as I would receive a letter by Riley a few days later informing me that they had “changed” their mind and were not willing to give me any money or any affiliation at Harvard.
They knew better. No court in Massachusetts was about to find a ruling against Harvard, particularly in a high-profile case like this that had grabbed the attention of local as well as national media, in light of the coverage by the Associated Press and so on. Again, I was naïve and think back then that this would anger the judge and work against Harvard and the defendants facing a jury trial in the absence of a settlement.
Do not compromise, punish, crucify him,
The infirm musing of a perpetual dreamer with
Eyes wild for relief.
There was one consolation however: no jury in the world could possibly look at that police report and find it credible, or could they? How little I understood the force and magnetism of Harvard’s seal on that report that was nothing but a brewing pot of duplicity and deceit.
I have already remarked that the “victim” Shobhana Rana would flee the US as soon as I filed my law suit against her and her accomplices, but not before giving her video deposition following a court order.
”Where did you work at the time of the crime?” I asked her.
“I worked at the Center for Middle East Studies.”
”And who did you report to, who was your boss?”
”My boss was professor Roy Mottahedeh.”
“What did you do after giving the money to that man the first time.”
”Oh, I went to work at Center for Middle East Studies.”
”And did you see any one there.”
”Yes, I saw Reza – Alavi.”
”And you didn’t say a word to him about the extortion, or to any one else, right?”
”Right, I didn’t.”
”And what about the second extortion, where did you go after that?”
”Well, I went to Boston to meet a friend.”
”And you didn’t say a word to your friend that a man had just extorted money from you.”
”And where did you go with your friend?”
”We went to a museum.”
Also, she would testify that she was “very close to her mother,” whom she described as an accomplished professional, and that she had a brother in the area and, yes again, she would not speak to any of them about the extortion, as if no such traumatic event had transpired in her life – which happened to be the case, as all the evidence showed that the entire extortion story was the fabrication of some sick minds that wanted to use it to destroy me.
Also, I took the deposition of the other accomplice, Reza Alavi and he too admitted that he worked alongside Shobhana at the Middle East Center “directly under Roy Mottahedeh.” And Mottahedeh in his own deposition admitted that he had recruited both individuals to work with him for a journal that he “supervised.”
According to the police report, Rana had submitted a “chronology of events” that recounted the events of her multiple encounters with the extortionist. Rana’s chronology had been incorporated into the police report.
Rana’s crime story
The following is the exact, word by word, reproduction of Shobhana Rana’s “chronology” as it appears in the Harvard police report prepared by detective Mederos:
“The following is a transcribed Chronology of Events written by Shobhana Rana in the third person describing her part in this incident. The statement was written by hand and obtained by me on 10/14/95 at her residence.
“I- The first contact made by the individual was in late August. There was a note on Shobhana’s mailbox which read that someone needed to see her about Reza Alavi in confidence.
II- This was followed a day later by a phone call by the same person who left this note. He asked to meet at Au Bon Pain in Harvard Square the following day.
III- The meeting took place in the morning about 10 a.m. Shobhana met a man who looked about in his forties, between 5’8”-5’9” in height, with dark curly hair with gray specks in it. He was slightly heavy in build. He started talking and made the following points. He referred to Reza as Mr. Alavi:
* He had known Reza for a long time since Iran. In Iran a lot of wheeling and dealing occurred at the Shah’s court, and Reza was a part of it.
* A lot of Iranians here were useless people and many were his (this person’s) enemies.
* Shobhana asked him who he was and where he worked. He refused to answer.
* Then he came back to Reza. He said that Reza had defrauded his way through life and had not done anything, but people are fooled into believing that he is a great man.
* He said that no serious work goes on at the center and the Iranians there are useless.
* He told Shobhana that she seemed like an intelligent person and was attractive – why was she wasting her time with someone like Reza? He said that he had seen Shobhana and Reza together many times, and knew that they were close friends.
* Then he described how horrible Iranians who lived in the United States. They were always exploring ways to manipulate and cheat other people. He said that they display the same behavior in the US as they do in Iran.
* Shobhana did not speak during this time. He asked her if she thought there was any work done by Iranians at the Center. She did not reply. Then he asked her how long she had been in the US.S., if she was a student at Harvard, and what were her plans for the future and she did not answer.
* He continued talking. He said he did not understand why Harvard employed Iranians, including Reza. He said that Reza would fuck anything in a skirt, and that this was the activity of most Iranians.
* He said he knew Reza is from a good family and has three sisters, one whom lives in Newton.
* He said that is was western-educated Iranians like Reza and other people at the center who look down upon other Iranians. He said they (the western-educated) have all the “right contacts”, and develop a base for themselves everywhere, including here at Harvard. They do not let anyone come into the circle.
* He then went on to describe that on several occasions he had needed help with books or for his family, and that these Iranians never helped him. He said maybe he was not sophisticated enough for them.
At this point Shobhana Rana began to feel that he could be on drugs. He would slow his words or become silent. He did not look drunk, but could have been on drugs.
* Then he began to get a bit angry and said that he wanted revenge somehow.
* He had not decided how to do it, but he wanted revenge.
* He said that may times he thought about hurting those Iranians, including Reza but then did not do it.
* Then again he described how horrible Iranians living in the U.S. were. They do corrupt things to the rich, and this also happens in academia. They are always hypocritical about each other, and also other people. He said he hates Iranians a lot, especially those who are wealthy.
* He told Shobhana to go on with his life but stay away from Iranians. He said that a friendship with Reza would be destructive, because he was just like all the others.
* He said that he must think of a way to teach them all a lesson so that they would not behave badly.
* Then he cautioned Shobhana that this was a private meeting, and that no one should find out about it, or else Reza would suffer. He said that he was aware that Reza and she were close friend, and that she would not surely want Reza harmed.
* He said that he would feel satisfied once he had taught these Iranians a lesson. They could not play around with people and expect no protest. All through this talk he was smoking continuously.
* Then he told Shobhana that he would be in touch again. Again he warned that no one should know if she wanted Reza or his family safe.
* He thanked Shobhana for her time and again said that no one should know.
* This man said that he had decided he wanted five hundred dollars from Reza to teach him a lesson.
* He said he needed money over the next few days and it must be money from Reza. He told Shobhana that she was a close friend of Reza’s and he know could get him the money.
* Shobhana offered him money right there but he said he wanted Reza to pay him. He wanted two installments of $250 each and on different days.
* Shobhana told him that if any harm came to Reza this man would be in trouble. He said that all he needed was the money and that no one should know. Then on harm would be done.
V—Shobhana met him in the Square and gave him $250 outside Baybank. They another three days later another $250 was given to him outside Baybank. He looked nervous and took the money and left.
VI- A week after the money episode Shobhana’s buzzer rang around 10 p.m. There were two men outside the main door. Shobhana was told that no one should know or her legs will be broken. The other man with the contact individual was larger in size but did not speak. If Shobhana was quiet nothing would happen to anyone. Then they left.
Since then there has been no contact.”
He asked no other information at this time.
IV- Shobhana received a call from him a week later. He again wanted to meet t Au Bon Pin. They met two days later for a few moments. The following points were discussed:
So, the gist of the “chronology” is that she had met the extortionist over a period of two or more weeks, that she met him five times, sat down and had conversations with him in broad day light in busy Harvard Square listening to his broken English and ransom demands, that she appeased him by giving him the money outside Baybank, again in broad day light, without a word to any one including Reza Alavi that she had daily contacts with per her deposition statement, or any of her relatives, and she being a bright Harvard graduate, would of course not think of reporting this to the police, until presumably Alavi discovers the discrepancy in his bank account, asks Rana about it – after all she had his ATM card and somehow the extortionist knew about this, and then they contact the Harvard police.
How did they come up with my name? The answer is found in the police report: After hearing Rana’s description of the extortionist, Alavi says wait a minute this resembles one, Kaveh Afrasiabi, who used to come to the center but is no longer welcome because he has been “disruptive.” So they go to the Middle East Center and get one of my photos in their record and, sure enough, “both victims” identify my picture. The DA Losier at the pre-trial hearing was rather adamant about “both victims” until my attorney interrupted him and said, “but wait a minute, the police report says that Alavi never saw the extortionist and the only real witness is Rana, who a few minutes ago did not identify Afrasiabi, so it is incorrect to say “both victims.”
Three years later, when these same characters were defendants in my civil rights action, Alavi, who had presumably just returned from Iran to testify, would flatly deny that he ever told Harvard police that I had been “disruptive.” “Oh no, I told them that you were very respectful.” Such convenient turnarounds after I had successfully turned the table on those malicious people who had ruined my life by playing their parts in their boss’s vengeful act against me could hardly compensate for the emotional pain of putting up with the utter character assassination planted against me in every page of the Harvard police report.
God please wake me from this nightmare, how many times did I whisper that under my lips when I was in jail and had been given the police report to read and to suffer over it. I remember my first reaction after reading the chronology was: you can’t be serious. How can any reasonable person – the prosecutors, detectives, or the magistrate issuing the arrest warrant, find this to be a credible story, i.e., “reasonably trustworthy” as required for the satisfaction of “objective reasonableness” standard in evaluating a criminal complaint? The fact that the Harvard police and the Commonwealth of Massachusetts had adopted the girl’s crime story at face value meant to me, a political science professor, that I had been subjected to an Orwellian or Kakfasque nightmare through and through, as if all of a sudden Massachusetts had been turned upside down into a commonwealth of fear. The longer this nightmare lasted, and the more familiar I became to the legal system in Massachusetts, the more I realized how defective and corrupted the whole system is, and how much of that corruption came from the noble university, Harvard that nominally nurtured and cultivated it mainly through its law graduates. Joe Wrinn, a Harvard spokesperson, in his inerview with Harvard Crimson had praised the police work in my arrest as “highly professional.” But, all Mr. Wrinn needed to do to discover the very opposite was to compare Rana’s “chronology” with the other aspects of the police report, compiled both by Mederos as well as another Harvard officer by the name of Laureen Donhahue. To my great astonishment, later on, after I would take Donahue’s deposition, I would come to the conclusion that Donahue was just a front and had played no role whatsoever in the whole matter, only lending her name to add to its credibility. Suffice to say here that when I took Donahue’s deposition, she had absolutely no clue about virtually any details – ranging from the description of the apartment she had supposedly visited, to the clothes worn by the “victims,” their physical features, or even the nature of evidence seized that day. Her constant “I don’t remember, I don’t recall” about an investigation that had taken place supposedly just a few months earlier belied her claim that she had played any role whatsoever. Case in point, after she said that she had seized some notes and envelopes pertaining to the extortionist, I surprised her by asking,
“so what did you do with them?”
”I took them to the police locker and entered them as evidence.”
”What do you mean?”
”I mean, how did you take them?”
”How, by hand.”
”Did you take any precaution?”
”What do you mean?”
”I mean, since that evidence had relevance for finger print identification, did you take any precaution to cover the finger prints.”
”I don’t recall. I am sure I must have.” For a moment I felt pity for Donahue since it seemed obvious that she had been dragged into this rather involuntarily.
Not only that, half the evidence that they had claimed that they had given to the police lab for examination would not be listed in the police lab’s report, especially the envelopes bearing the hand-writing of the suspect. After three years of delay, I would be given those envelopes on the eve of the jury trial, with attorney Riley pretending that they had “misplaced them.” But sure enough, as I quickly put them in the hands of two hand-writing experts, the hand-writings on them would prove to be one and the same as the detective Mederos on trial.
Officer Laureen Donahue’s Report
Identified in the police report as the “first narrative,” the Donahue report, dated 11/09/95, stated that she and another office, Downing, responded to a call by Alavi “about the threats the he had received and money that has been extorted from him. Mr. Alavi’s neighbor and work study student Shobhana Rana, who lives at 18 Prescott St. #5 found a message on her mailbox telling her to meet with a certain individual and to bring $500 or else Mr. Alavi would be killed. Ms. Rana met with this individual twice, bringing $250.00 each time. Ms. Rana had access to Mr. Alavi’s bank accounts, withdrew the money from his account because the person threatening his life wanted it proven that it was his money. The money was withdrawn from the Baybank in Harvard Square approximately one month ago. Mrs. Rana apparently did not say anything to Mr. Alavi because she feared harm would come to him. Mr. Alavi noticed the difference in his bank account and after looking into the matter discovered what happened.
A letter addressed to Mr. Alavi was slipped under his door at 20A Prescott St. pertaining to the money extorted and the threats to his life. The letter has been tagged, and placed in the property locker.
Mr. Alavi asked Ms. Rana to describe the person she me with and handed the money over to. This person was described as being: live skinned, 5’6. stocky (chubby), black hair (almost crew cut), round faced and thick lipped. This fits the basic description of a possible suspect that was once a visiting scholar at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, a Mr. Kareh Afrasiabi. Mr. Afrasiabi is no longer welcome at the Center For Middle Eastern Studies. He had a problem with a professor in that department, who also happens to be Mr. Alavi’s boss. Mr. Afrasiabi would continue to come to the conferences that were open to the public and called to complain when he was not invited to a conference that was by invitation only. He penned a letter to a professor in the department stating he would be taking revenge. It was similar wording that was in the letter that was left under Mr. Alavi’s door. The description also fits Mr. Afrasiabi.”
How convenient. Reading Donahue’s report for the first time, I immediately noticed the discrepancies with Rana’s “chronology’: whereas Rana had indicated that she met the extortionist five times, Donahue’s report said “twice.” And then there were all the discrepancies with respect to height, skin color, hair, etc. As if these weren’t bad enough, they were compounded by the “follow-up report” compiled by detective Mederos:
Detective Mederos’s report:
“I spoke with Ms. Rana to confirm the facts stated in Officer Donahue’s report. She described the individual that she met as follows: a white male, 5’8”-5’9”, medium to heavy build, slight belly, black hair with gray specks in it, curly and short in length, and a “five o’clock shadow,” possibly in his late 30s or early 40s.”
Some confirmation. I recall asking myself: Since when “curly hair” and “crew cut” are one and the same, or “slightly heavy in build” qualifies for “chubby” – and why is there no typo in the entire text except for my first name, typed “as Kareh” once? But of course, such innocent typographic errors would be a tiny help in their sinister accusation that I was using “different aliases” and, moreover, what explained the discrepancy in the dates of extortion!
Donahue’s report, dated 11/09/95, put the date of extortion “approximately one month ago,” that is, toward the middle of October. This contradicted the prosecutor’s presentation to the judge, that it occurred in November, as well as Mederos’s report that put the date in September: “I met with Ms. Rana at her residence at 18 Prescott St. on 11/13/95 at 10:30 a.m. I interviewed her and asked if she could provide any further details of the two encounters with the suspect. Ms. Rana stated she first encountered the suspect on September 17, 1995 at approximately 4:00 p.m. and made an initial withdrawal of $250.00. Ms. Rana then was encountered at her residence by the suspect and a second unknown male and made another withdrawal of $250.00 at the Baybanks 144 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA.”
This last paragraph appears on page 6 of the police report and, gain, is inconsistent with Rana’s “chronology” about the number of times she had met the extortionist, and the chronology when he had appeared at her door along with another man. No mention is made in Mederos’s report about the facts stated in Rana’s chronology: that she had met the extortionist three times before making the first withdrawal, and that her encounter with the man and his friend at her residence had happened one week after both withdrawals.
“Clever foxes we are dealing with here, this is definitely going to be an uphill battle,” attorney Birch told me after having first read the police report, “they have a moving target with the dates, so it makes it impossible to pin this or that date down and for you to prove that you were somewhere else.”
Also, the Donahue statement – that Rana “found a message on her mail box telling her to meet with a certain individual and to bring $500 or else Mr. Alavi would be killed” did not conform with Rana’s chronology: “There was a note on Shobhana’s mailbox which read that someone needed to see about Reza Alavi in confidence.” And per Rana’s account, even at her first meeting, the stranger had not raised the money issue. Furthermore, whereas Donahue referred to “notes and a letter” left at the residence of the “victims,” Mederos’s narrative refereed to a single “note.”
The discrepancies just kept going and going: Detective Mederos had written, on page 12 of the police report, that Alavi did not know about the extortion until he had received an anonymous note from the extortionist in an envelope addressed to him and placed under the door to his apartment. Yet, per Donahue’s narrative, Alavi “noticed the difference in his bank account and after looking into the matter discovered what happened.” And then was Mederos’s other report about the money being returned along with an apology:
”I had conversation with Mr. Reza Alavi on 11/20/95 concerning this case. Mr. Alavi informed me that sometime on 11/18/95 between 11:00 am and 12:30 p.m. he received an envelope. The envelope was addressed to him, had no postmarks, and had been placed under his door at his apartment. The envelope contained a letter of apology from the suspect in this case and a $500 in cash. The Content of the letter reads as follows:
“Dear Mr. Alavi
I am writing you again to tell ou how bad and sorry I feel right now. I feel I have much anger but it is not for you. No one in this university is my enemy – of course not yourself. I was angry about many things and so much respect that ou have from many people. Your young lady friend is so beautiful and a wonderful person. I think to myself that you are a lucky person and I get more angry.
I am return your money because I don’t want it. Please I apologize with all my heart to you. I will not make any more problem for anyone. I think I am mad sometimes and I have to control it. I think bad about you and say some terrible things but they are not correct. You are a good man and I hope things will be wonderful for you. I am also write to Miss Shobhana and your office with apology. So sory and do apologize to you very much. May Almighty always be with you. Your personality give me courage to write to you again. I will try to make better life. Goodbye and God bless.”
The envelope, letter, and cash were seized as evidence. Me. Alavi turned down the items over to me at his office. I received only $370 in cash as Mr. Alavi stated he had spent some of it…Note: the letters were retyped as they appeared on the letter.”
Questions about Rana at Harvard
But, really, who were these two characters, Rana and Alavi? Incidentally, William Graham, who was the director of Center for Middle Eastern Studies at the time of my arrest, would categorically deny that Rana ever worked at the Center.
”Are you saying that Shobhana Rana does not, or has never in the past, worked at the Center For Middle East Studies?”
”That’s correct,” Graham, now a dean of Harvard’s Divinity School, stated under oath.
“Are you sure about that?”
”Yes, I am.”
”Could it be that you don’t know all the employees of the center and she is a low-level employee that you don’t know about?”
”No, that’s impossible. It’s a fairly small center and I know every one who works there and this person I don’t know at all.”
I had to add that as a new bizarre twist in my Kafkasque story – that my life and a hard-earned life-time of degree and public reputation had gone down the drain in the hands of a woman who had been listed by Harvard police as an employee of the Middle East Center at Harvard and yet, the director of that center adamantly rejected any suggestion that she ever worked there.
But she worked there alright, and her name was listed on the inside page of the Journal on Islamic and Middle East Studies that, per Mottahedeh’s admission, was supervised by him. Graham’s denial about Rana was the first step on her disappearance act, as she would leave the US shortly after my arrest, along with the other patsy Alavi. Down the line, I would discover a lot more discrepancies, one being about Rana’s claim that she had received a master degree from Harvard and had written a thesis on such and such topic. It would turn out to be a lie and after Graham’s deposition, I received a judge’s order to compel Harvard to produce all the records pertaining to Rana’s education and employment there.
The chief justice who bowed out instead of issuing verdict against Harvard
Harvard refused and after a while I succeeded again in getting the judge’s ultimatum to Harvard: produce the documents or face judgment against you by such and such a date (specifying even the deadline at noon). But, at one o’clock that deadline, the judge’s secretary would fax me his resignation instead! The judge, citing a conflict of interest with one of Harvard’s new attorneys on board, chose to exit the case than to issue a verdict against Harvard. Might over right one more time, more on this and other unusual and even bizarre developments in my lonely fight for justice in the subsequent chapters.
Tauro’s unexpected resignation should have woken me up from my perpetual dream of justice, for if the chief justice of the federal court was demonstrating his inability to dispense with justice in my case against Harvard, how could I expect any better from his replacement?
Regarding Alavi, as a result of litigation in my civil rights action, I would learn that the gentleman referred to as “professor” in Harvard police report was no professor at all, simply a low-level functionary at the Middle East Center with a bachelor degree and not one single publication in his name. Yet, he had been used as Mottahedeh’s alter-ego, falsely reported as a professor, showered with accolade, exaggerated in importance, and depicted as someone that the extortionist, I, looked upon with awe mixed with envy and hatred.
This brings me to a conclusion for this chapter: my kafkasque character assassination was reflected in every single one of their multiple coordinated steps against me; their concocted notes and letters portrayed the extortionist as a step or two short of a full-fledged terrorist, who spied on people, somehow knew their unpublished telephone numbers and their addresses, who could enter and exit secure apartment buildings unseen. In his characters were congealed all the vicious and deadly qualities of a conspirator as defined by professors Lowenthal and Gutterman: “It is ubiquitous, close, deadly, insidious. It invites the idea of extermination, and most important, it is invisible to the naked eye.” >>> Chapter 6