Slasher gets 7 years to life
A full courtroom listened to a choked-up judge sentence Steve Wasserman who was a no-show for his last hearing in El Dorado County before being shipped off to prison.
Wasserman, 36, was given seven years to life in prison per an agreement he made last month by pleading no contest to burglary and aggravated mayhem with use of a deadly weapon.
Arrested in October for slashing ex-girlfriend Susan Rizk within inches of her life in front of their 4-year-old daughter with a medieval-type sword, Wasserman has spent the last 10 months in jail. He initially pleaded not guilty, saying he was insane at the time.
The sentence does not mean Wasserman is assured release from prison in seven years. At that time he will go before a parole board to argue for his release while El Dorado County District Attorney’s Office prosecutors will fight to keep him behind bars. If parole is denied, he will have repeated opportunities to sway the board for his release.
Prosecutor Tony Sears said he is already preparing for the times he will go before the board to argue for Wasserman to stay in prison.
“It is the desire and intention of this office, as harsh as it sounds, that Mr. Wasserman die in prison,” said Assistant District Attorney Hans Uthe. “We intend for that to happen and if that sounds harsh, we believe it’s the just and right thing to do. Miss Rizk and this community deserves just that. To me, he sacrificed his freedom.
“We never forget and we always show up,” Uthe added about the parole hearings.
Defense attorney Lori London addressed the court first. She began by referring to how long she has known both Wasserman and Rizk. She continued by noting her familiarity with their daughter and how Wasserman took care of the child when Rizk was in jail and enrolled in a treatment center for alcohol addiction.
“So for you who think (she) is a great little girl you can thank Steve,” London said, turning to audience members.
Adding that Wasserman felt his daughter’s soul was in danger, London said all five mental health experts who diagnosed Wasserman said he was mentally ill. Four of the doctors agreed Wasserman was insane at the time of the attack, London said.
London then blamed society, saying it “can’t quantify mental health” and no person, including her client, Rizk and their daughter, should undergo what they went through.
“I think they all lost and I think our society has lost,” London said.
Rizk, who said she intended not to address the court, decided to speak after London’s comments.
Rizk said she was disappointed Wasserman “couldn’t come out here and face me.” She admitted she has forgiven Wasserman and has remorse for her former boyfriend.
After the hearing, Rizk refuted London’s comment, saying she was away for eight months and was in contact with their daughter.
“I’m really grateful that he was there taking care of her while I was taking care of my problems so I could be a good mother and have an active role as a mother in her life,” she said.
Rizk was hospitalized for two months after the attack. Doctors have done more than half a dozen surgeries on the 38-year-old. Immediately supported by family and friends after the attack at her apartment on San Francisco Avenue, Rizk has attributed her recovery to God.
“It was bad. I’m a miracle standing here,” she told the courtroom.
El Dorado County Supreme Court Judge Jerald Lasarow praised the community and likened London representing Wasserman to the attorney who represented Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh.
The judge also thanked Wasserman for entering a plea and forgoing a trial some expected to last two months that likely would have brought gruesome images, testimonies and memories to the community’s consciousness.
Yet Lasarow also chided Wasserman, saying he was “somewhat cowardly” for not being in court.
Rizk’s strength and support from many left an impression on Lasarow, who more than once repeated his pride for the community.
“Again, you must be one of the strongest people around. … What willpower you have is tremendous,” he said.
Restitution matters covered the last half of the hearing as Sears noted several thousand dollars in Wasserman’s bank accounts along with 32 ounces of gold. A check for more than $3,000 from Wasserman was given to Rizk during the hearing.
After the hearing, Sears disputed the findings cited by London from the mental health experts. He said Wasserman’s initial interviews contrasted with statements made to the doctors whom he met after the not guilty by reason of insanity defense was entered.
“Therefore, Mr. Wasserman had a huge incentive to target a specific result,” Sears said.
London quickly left the courtroom and could not be reached for comment.
Rizk’s supporters, including sisters Lisa Fischer and Donna Logalbo, stood outside the courtroom after the hearing.
“I want to thank the community, my church family and everybody,” Rizk said. “I wouldn’t be who I am without them.”