A judge on Monday was forced to dismiss a case against a man accused of holding his wife captive for five months in a Modesto home. The woman refused to testify against her husband.
Masehullah, who told the judge he has only one name, maintained his innocence during his first court appearance in February and pleaded not guilty to charges of false imprisonment, trying to prevent a victim from reporting a crime and a misdemeanor count of battery on his spouse.
He initially was identified in court and jail records as “Fnu Masehullah.”
On Monday morning, Stanislaus Superior Court Judge Thomas Zeff warned the woman that if she didn’t testify, he could find her in contempt. She repeatedly answered that she didn’t want to testify because it was her right not to.
Zeff asked the prosecutor what good would it do if he found the wife in contempt. “It gets us nowhere,” Deputy District Attorney Beth O’Hara Owen told the judge. She said the law dictates that the wife could be charged with contempt of court, but she cannot be incarcerated for refusing to answer questions.
The judge found the wife in contempt, but he said he could do nothing else to compel her to testify in her husband’s preliminary hearing.
After the wife refused to testify last month, the court ordered her to receive counseling at Haven Women’s Center of Stanislaus County to convince her that she could testify and receive protection from authorities. The woman’s attorney provided the court a letter as proof that she participated in the counseling.
Her attorney told the judge that her client doesn’t want to testify and has recanted statements she initially gave police.
Without the wife’s testimony, the prosecution had no other evidence to present in the preliminary hearing for Masehullah, 26.
The judge ruled that there was insufficient evidence for the case to proceed to trial. Zeff also revoked a restraining order against the husband.
Authorities believed Mohammad Idrees, Masehullah’s brother, assisted in holding the woman captive, according to a filed criminal complaint. Idrees is charged with felony false imprisonment and misdemeanor battery on his brother’s wife. Idrees, 28, is expected to return to court this month for a pretrial hearing. He is free on bail.
The criminal complaint indicates Masehullah’s wife was held captive Sept. 1 through Feb. 2, when Modesto police found her involved in a dispute with her brother-in-law at a north Modesto shopping center.
The officers were directed to the couple’s home, where authorities say they found a belt used to tie up the woman. Police said the woman was fed once a day while held captive.