Hader Nasim walked out of a courtroom Friday stone-faced, his hands cuffed behind his back, a seven-years-to-life prison sentence on his head and a judge’s observation in his ears that nobody really knows who he is.
Nasim, 31, was convicted last month of the attempted murder of his pregnant wife. He had hired a hit man to run her over with a truck and park it on her head for a while to “just make sure she’s dead.”
Sacramento Superior Court Judge Maryanne G. Gilliard said the recording of Nasim’s instructions obtained by an undercover police officer displayed a wretchedness “so disorienting and terrifying” that it ought to make anybody question themselves if they think they really know him.
“Sometimes those who think they know us the best don’t know us at all,” Gilliard said in handing down the sentence on the defendant, whose expression never changed during the hourlong court hearing.
Nasim’s mother wrote one of a couple dozen letters to the court on behalf of her son. She said the University of California, Davis, electrical engineering graduate “worked very hard” and was “determined to build a better life for all of us.” His father said in his letter that Nasim was a “loving, calm person.”
But there wasn’t much love for Nasim’s wife in a Sept. 12, 2012, conversation he had with the undercover officer in the Home Depot parking lot on Florin Road.
In their talk, Nasim gave the phony hit man a description of his wife, told him what kind of clothes she’d be wearing, provided him with a pattern of her morning walks in the Valley Hi area, and where and at what time and how it would be best to kill her.
“Yeah, like you run her over, she’s on the ground, you back up on her, and you just stay on top of her,” Nasim instructed.
What got Gilliard the most was the part when the undercover officer asked how badly he should disfigure the wife, and whether Nasim wanted her presentable for an open-casket funeral.
“Surprise me,” Nasim said.
“That is a window into the mind of Mr. Hader Nasim, and it is frightening,” the judge said.
Nasim did not address the court but his lawyer, Linda Parisi, said he’s sorry and that he has accepted responsibility for his actions.
“He has made a tragic mistake, and a mistake for which he understands he has to pay his debt to society, and then hopefully when he reintegrates into society he will accept his responsibilities and indeed be a contributing member of society,” Parisi said.
Deputy District Attorney Keith Hill had a problem with the characterization of Nasim’s attempt to murder his wife as a “mistake.”
“He planned this for at least seven to 10 days,” Hill said. “Each and every one of those days, he had an opportunity to think he was making a mistake and to change.”
Hill detected laughter on Nasim’s part when he was talking on tape to the undercover officer about the open or closed casket, a tip-off to his true level of callousness.
“If it weren’t for the fact that the undercover officer wasn’t just that, an undercover officer, we’d be sitting here for the homicide of a pregnant woman,” Hill said.
Prosecutors said Nasim wanted his wife dead because they were having marital difficulties, and he’d already been through one divorce and another would have been culturally unacceptable for him.
The American-born son of immigrants, Nasim had Sarah Bukhari flown to Sacramento from Pakistan to marry her.
Bukhari had been planning to speak at Friday’s sentencing but the child she had with Nasim was sick and she couldn’t make it.
She was paraphrased in Nasim’s probation report as saying the thought of her arranged husband also arranging her murder “destroyed her trust in people.”
“As a result she now lives a shuttered life and has a hard time connecting with people,” the report said.
Nasim worked in his family’s stores and helped manage their properties. Gilliard acknowledged that he “presents as a doting, faithful, loving son,” that he “was an active member of his mosque” and that he looked like “a pillar of the community, and he certainly was.”
“But make no mistake,” she said. “There is nobody in this courtroom who really knows what is in Mr. Nasim’s mind and heart as we all sit here today.”