A former Ladera Ranch resident who eluded authorities for six years until his capture in Austria was sentenced today to 61 years to life for sexually assaulting three women.
Ali Achekzai, 34, was found guilty Dec. 15 of raping two women in 2004 and fondling and attempting to sexually assault another woman in 2002, Deputy District Attorney Robert Mestman said.
His arrest was largely due to a hunch from Tustin police Detective Ryan Coe, who asked Orange County crime lab employees to run the DNA evidence in the case through an Interpol database, Mestman said. It was the first Interpol-related DNA hit in California, the prosecutor added.
One of Achekzai's victims, who was raped near Mount Soledad in La Jolla, told the defendant how the attack affected her in remarks made before Orange County Superior Court Judge Daniel Didier handed down Achekzai's punishment.
"Eight years ago you took my voice, my confidence, my self-worth, my pride and my dignity," she said. "You made me cautious and wary of men. You took my innocence. I want you to know that what you did was disgusting and vile and it will affect me for the rest of my life."
She added that Achekzai's sentence amounted to "payback" for his crimes.
"You're nothing but a coward, a sexual predator of the worst kind," she said. "Get ready for a long, boring life behind bars with the rapists, child molesters and murderers where you belong."
Achekzai fondled and attempted to sexually assault a 24-year-old woman while she was passed out in a limousine parked near a Laguna Beach nightclub on Oct. 26, 2002, Mestman said. The victim woke up while Achekzai was fondling her breasts, and she screamed for help, according to the prosecutor.
Achekzai met another woman at the same Laguna Beach nightclub on Jan. 31, 2004.
Later that evening, after they had gone their separate ways, Achekzai drove up alongside the 21-year-old victim and managed to convince her to pull her car into a Jack In the Box restaurant parking lot in Tustin, then raped her in her vehicle, Mestman said.
Achekzai raped the then-21-year-old woman on May 3, 2004, near Mount Soledad in La Jolla, Mestman said.
The victim had gone to see her cousin, who had met Achekzai's cousin in the same Laguna Beach nightclub, Mestman said. The woman, her cousin and Achekzai and his cousin drove around San Diego looking for a business still open to buy alcohol.
When they could not find one, they drove to the Mount Soledad area. Achekzai and the victim, who is 28 now, paired off and took a walk to leave the other two alone, but she got scared when she felt they had walked too far.
She testified that she told Achekzai she wanted to go back to the car and started to walk in that direction when he grabbed her by the hand. The woman testified that she tried to fight back as Achekzai repeatedly punched her and then sexually assaulted her.
When Achekzai covered her mouth with his hand, she sunk her teeth into it, she testified.
Authorities were able to link Achekzai to the two rapes through DNA evidence, Mestman said.
Achekzai testified that the sexual assault in the limousine did not happen and claimed he had consensual sex with the other women in 2004, Mestman said.
Jurors -- who deliberated several hours before reaching verdicts -- did not buy those claims.
Arrest warrants for Achekzai were first issued in October 2004, but the Afghanistan native fled the country before he could face charges here, Mestman said.
In April 2009, Achekzai was accused of rape in Salzburg, Austria, but those charges were later dropped and he was extradited to Orange County in August 2010, according to prosecutors.
—City News Service