Man Who Attacked Local Reporter Sentenced To Year In Jail

A La Jolla man who attacked a local television reporter who was investigating his real estate dealings was sentenced Friday to probation and a year in county jail.

Assad "Sam" Suleiman, 37, pleaded guilty April 20 to assault with force likely to cause great bodily injury for beating Fox 6 News reporter John Mattes on Sept. 5.

The attack -- caught on videotape by Mattes' cameraman -- occurred at a private residence on Draper Avenue in La Jolla, close to a construction site where Suleiman was gutting and renovating a building.

Defense attorney Kerry Steigerwalt told Judge John Einhorn that while Suleiman's behavior was "embarrassing," the defendant was under pressure to make a monthly $20,000 payment on his $2 million "dream building," which was intended to provide offices for investment services.

"This was the dream he had," Steigerwalt told the judge. "He has lost everything as a result of this fiasco."

Suleiman was upset because Mattes was attempting to microanalyze his past real estate dealings and also alleging identity theft, Steigerwalt said.

At the time of the attack, Suleiman was not taking his medication for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, causing him to lose control, Steigerwalt said.

Suleiman is "humiliated" every time he watches the videotaped attack, which makes him look like a "bumbling buffoon in society's eyes," Steigerwalt said.

Suleiman said he was sorry for his actions.

"It wasn't right," the defendant said. "Violence is not right."

Suleiman apologized to Mattes but told the victim he manipulated his job as a journalist.

Mattes told the court that Suleiman's assault on him was an attack on his reporting.

"He objected in a way that I've never seen in all my years as a journalist," Mattes said.

"This is just what I do," the reporter said. "This is what I do for a living. This is nothing personal."

Brian Phillips, who lived in a building next to Suleiman's, said that before the attack on Mattes, the defendant had threatened him and screamed racial slurs at him and his girlfriend.

"Why should I have to worry about my own life?" Phillips said, urging the judge to impose the maximum punishment possible. "Sam Suleiman is a bad human being."

Einhorn told the defendant he belonged in prison, but terms of his plea bargain called for local custody.

Suleiman and his wife, Rosa Barraza, were also ordered to complete anger management classes.

Barraza, 33, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge and was sentenced to three years probation and ordered to do 30 days of public work service.

The day of the attack, Mattes was at the site to interview Phillips about his dealings with Suleiman.

Some of Suleiman's employees called their boss, and their conversation was overheard by Barraza, who immediately went to the scene.

Once there, Barraza threw water on Mattes, shouted profanities, hit the reporter with a plastic water bottle and knocked the camera out the cameraman's arms.

Suleiman arrived a few minutes later and immediately chopped Mattes in the neck and pushed the victim's head toward a fence, prosecutor Allen Brown said.

Phillips tried to intervene, but Suleiman continued to scratch, bite and kick Mattes.

Barraza proceeded to her car and allegedly said she was going to get a gun. She returned with what turned out to be a glass bottle of perfume, which she held over Mattes' head.

Mattes had his eyes gouged, a bite on the hand, lacerations to the cheek and five cracked ribs.

Print this article Back to Top