Suleiman and Barraza Enter Pleas of "Not Guilty" in Court Over Attack on Fox News Reporter Mattes

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Mr. Suleiman and his wife Ms. Barraza were arraigned in San Diego Superior Court September 12 and entered pleas of “not guilty” to all charges against them.

On September 12th, Assad “Sam” Suleiman and his wife Amelia Barraza were arraigned in San Diego Superior Court (People v. Suleiman, People v. Barraza [Case # CD201445]), and entered pleas of “not guilty” to all charges alleged against them.

Mr. Suleiman and Ms. Barraza appeared at San Diego Superior Court on September 12, 2006 and plead “not guilty” to the charges surrounding an incident involving FOX News reporter John Mattes that occurred on September 5, 2006. Ms. Barraza remained out on bond previously posted, but the judge increased Mr. Suleiman’s bail to $200,000 despite the fact that he had posted bail when originally charged. Bail was increased due to new charges alleged against Mr. Suleiman.

Mr. Suleiman is expected to post bail tonight. “We had the bail bondsman in court …. The increased bond is being posted as we speak,” said Mr. Suleiman’s defense attorney Kerry Steigerwalt. Mr. Steigerwalt also stated, “In the meantime we are pursuing a vigorous offense against these charges.”

The incident in question began as Mr. Mattes was interviewing Brian Phillips outside a La Jolla home near property owned by Mr. Suleiman during what has been described as an aggressive investigation of Mr. Suleiman’s alleged business improprieties. Ms. Barraza arrived at the location and asserted her view that the investigation bordered on harassment and that the interview should be conducted elsewhere. When the representatives of FOX News on the scene refused her request, Ms. Barraza became more assertive in her position. The entire episode was caught on camera by photojournalist Dennis Waldrop, a fellow reporter at FOX 6 News.

Mr. Suleiman then appeared at the scene and said he witnessed the camera crew engaged in a physical exchange with his wife. He believed that her safety was in jeopardy and said he acted accordingly. When the reporter continued to engage his wife, Mr. Suleiman used physical force to restrain the potential threat to his wife, Mr. Suleiman said. Although the cameraman kept film rolling on the scene, the footage released to the general media does not fully capture the intensity of the confrontation, his lawyer said.

Mr. Steigerwalt believes that the national media coverage of this alleged incident has tainted the view of the public who are not aware of the entire details of the confrontation. What began as an aggressive interview ended with Mr. Suleiman attempting to immediately relieve his wife’s distress by the only means he had at hand, Steigerwalt said.

Mr. Suleiman is known to be a successful San Diego businessman who alleges he was taken advantage of by an unscrupulous former employee who abused his good faith to commit various fraudulent real estate transactions. When Mr. Suleiman discovered the impropriety he promptly discharged the individual and did his best to investigate his options in regard to affected clients.

Mr. Steigerwalt appeared with Mr. Suleiman on the September 8, 2006 episode of Tucker with Tucker Carlson on MSNBC. Speaking on behalf of his client, Mr. Steigerwalt asserted that he believed Mr. Mattes was acting far outside the realm of normal professional journalism. Mr. Suleiman concurred that Mr. Mattes had been allegedly “harassing” his family and friends for the last four months while trying to investigate rumors of real estate fraud.

Nationally recognized San Diego trial attorney Kerry Steigerwalt is one of the country’s top ranked defense attorneys and handles high profile cases of all types. He is a frequently sought guest on national television programs such as 48 Hours, as well as Court TV and FOX News. Mr. Steigerwalt has also been quoted in famous publications such as Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, and People magazine.

Mr. Steigerwalt is the driving force behind, an online resource devoted to helping people that have been charged with a crime to fight for justice.


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Cameron Rentch
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