Judge seals documents in refugee murder case

From the Times-News

By Andrea Jackson
Times-News writer

Public documents were sealed from community sight this week in the murder case against Iranian refugee Majid Kolestani.

Kolestani, 43 – a man who identifies as a woman and also goes by the first name Nastaran – is accused of shooting 29-year-old Iranian refugee Ehsan Velayati Kababian to death in his car along Fifth Avenue East in Twin Falls on Aug. 25. Friends of the pair say possible motive is jealousy over a woman Kababian may have been romancing in Iran.

Twin Falls 5th District Court Judge Randy Stoker recently denied Kolestani’s requests to dismiss the case and another to change venue because of pretrial publicity.

Stoker on Tuesday sealed an unspecified motion and order. Last year he sealed four documents in September involving the preservation of evidence, court records show.

The move to seal mirrors others from recent serious criminal cases.

A Times-News request to view a sealed police affidavit regarding a rape reported outside Woody’s on April 16 was denied this week in Twin Falls 5th District Court.

In that case, Justin Wicklund, 24, is charged with rape, after he was arrested hours following the alleged incident unfolded outside Woody’s Bar and Grill.

Judge Howard Smyser sealed the “affidavit in support of warrant for arrest,” because it “contain(s) highly intimate facts or statements, the publication of which would be highly objectionable to a reasonable person,” according to court records.

Prosecutors asked Smyser to seal the rape case document, and on Tuesday he decided Wicklund’s lawyer, Joe Rockstahl, of Twin Falls, can get a copy for defending his client.

On April 16 in Jerome County, Judge Jason Walker shut the public out of a criminal hearing in a first-degree murder case without saying if 73-year-old Fortino Leon is mentally fit to stand trial or why he was sealing the hearing.

Fortino Leon, 73, is accused of first-degree murder in the July shooting of Javier Zavala-Paniagua, 22, in the street in front of his home in Jerome. He also is charged with aggravated assault and aggravated battery in relation to the shooting of his estranged wife, Maria Leon, 41, who was living with Zavala-Paniagua at the time.

On April 17 in an order filed with the Jerome County 5th District Court, Walker wrote that he sealed the hearing to protect Leon’s right to a fair trial, and continued Leon’s commitment with the Idaho Department of Correction for 180 days.

Prior proceedings related to Leon’s mental competency have been held in open court.

Any willful or intentional disclosure of a confidential court record may be treated as a contempt of court, according to Idaho judicial rules.

Andrea Jackson may be reached at ajackson@magicvalley.com or 208-735-3380.

From the Times-News

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