Salim Mehajer sentenced over AVO breach
WHAT started as a love story and peaked in an elaborate fairytale wedding that closed down an entire Sydney street has ended with Salim Mehajer narrowly dodging more jail time.
Disgraced former Auburn deputy mayor Salim Mehajer, 31, has been sentenced to an 18-month good behaviour bond for breaching an apprehended violence order (AVO) lodged by his ex-wife Aysha Learmonth.
The controversial property developer was last month convicted of intimidating Ms Learmonth over an Instagram message he sent her in November last year.
Mehajer today appeared in Burwood Local Court by video link - wearing prison greens and revealing his newly-shaved head which he recently hinted towards on Instagram, writing "goodbye hair" - for sentencing.
In her findings handed down this afternoon, Magistrate Jacqueline Trad said there was "no actual threat of violence conveyed in those messages (sent to Ms Learmonth)" but that they indicated "a certain amount of menace in relation to the accused being able to know what the victim was doing and when she was doing it".
She previously told the court that the message "indicated a level of sinister behaviour that could certainly make out an intention that caused someone to fear".
"In my view it's a case that a conviction is not only appropriate but necessary," Ms Trad said today. "In relation to matter I impose a bond for a period of 18 months."
The prosecutor said Ms Learmonth "still has considerable fears in relation to any future contact from (Mehajer)."
Mehajer's lawyer Zali Burrows told the court that her client was a "sick puppy" still in love with Ms Learmonth when he intimidated her. She said he was not at risk of reoffending.
"At the time of offence Mr Mehajer wasn't aware of (his) mental health issues," Ms Burrows said. "There were no threats or direct harm to his wife.
"He's moved on ... he's planning a future with his new partner ... he has no interest at all in contacting Ms Learmonth."
But the magistrate rejected the claims, saying that all allegations of mental health issues, were based solely on Mehajer's recent reports to a psychiatrist and family members.
"(There's) no history of any contact with mental health services, no counselling or treatment, including medication," Ms Trad said.
"I cannot make a finding there is a connection between conduct (and mental health)."
Last month, Mehajer's barrister Geoffrey Foster described the Instagram message sent to Ms Learmonth from his client as "warm and friendly" before reading it out to the court.
"It starts off: 'Aysha, I hope this message finds you well. I mean it from the bottom of my heart. Consider it a friendly congratulations on your new business'," Mr Foster said.
Ms Trad told the court she was "satisfied it was the accused behind sending the email to Ms Learmonth".
While Mehajer was found guilty of intimidation, a second charge of "contravene AVO" was dismissed on the basis "the prosecution had not satisfied the court (of) ... what was in place in terms of orders served or not".
Defending the charges last month, Mr Mehajer alleged Ms Learmonth met with him, slept in his bed and sent "flirtatious" messages on several occasions while the order was in place last year.
Ms Learmonth's legal team claimed that Mr Mehajer had sent his ex more than "400 messages" but that she had not replied or had any contact with him since the couple split in March 2016.
An AVO banning Mr Mehajer, 31, from contacting Ms Learmonth has been in place since 2016. But Mr Mehajer told the court the pair had been in contact with Ms Learmonth attending "about seven" functions at his home and meeting up with him at Parramatta and Burwood. He also alleged Ms Learmonth was "flirtatious" during those encounters and had initiated contact in several emails and messages over social media.
Mr Foster read out an email allegedly sent by Ms Learmonth to Mr Mehajer on July 28 last year.
"Hi Salim how are you?" it read.
"I really thought about our relationship and decided I want to return to you.
"I know I've been distant from you ... please let me know if you want to discuss it in detail.
"I love you, Aysha Lea."
The court heard Ms Learmonth sent Mr Mehajer a second email the following day. Mr Mehajer said he and Ms Learmonth met at a cafe in Parramatta soon after. He told the court he was unable to recall the cafe name or produce a credit card statement to support his claims he paid for the order.
"I don't recall precisely but (it was) probably towards end of last year, October or November," he said.
"(The meeting) was on her request. She needed something from me. At the time I was led to believe she wanted to see me.
"(Her behaviour towards me was) perhaps flirtatious; Showing a bit of connection to me ... no sign of being distant. It was a bit awkward but it was still loving.
"She kissed me on the cheek, forehead, held my hand and hugged me."
Mr Mehajer also told the court that Ms Learmonth had slept in his bed with him as recently as November last year.
Police prosecutor Stephen Dayeian put it to Mr Mehajer that he was "making this up about Aysha".
"Since she left the home you've had no personal contact since (March 22) 2016," Mr Dayeian said.
SALIM SENT HIMSELF EMAILS
The court heard that Mr Mehajer had allegedly sent himself the emails from Ms Learmonth's Hotmail account. Mr Mehajer denied the allegation and said he had tried to log in to his ex-wife's email account mid-2016 "because what was hers was mine" but the password had changed.
"You were trying to spy on her ... because you're obsessed ... that's why you sent her over 400 emails after she left the home (in March 2016)", Mr Dayeian said.
Mr Mehajer was unable to produce on request any photographic evidence of Ms Learmonth at any of the 7-10 functions he alleged she attended at his home.
"There will be photographs," Mr Mehajer said. He told the court there were no "minutes" or calendar entries to support allegations of meetings between the pair during the period in question.
Mr Mehajer's friend Mohammed Ghanem took the stand to support the claims that Ms Learmonth had been at his home at least twice in 2017.
Mr Ghanem said he went to Mr Mehajer's house after being invited over for drinks sometime in 2017. He said he saw Mr Mehajer and Ms Learmonth having "dry sex" through the glass front door upon arrival.
Mr Dayeian asked him exactly what he saw and he replied: "They were making love ... it was dry sex ... I seen (sic) his tongue and her tongue on her mouth. She was enjoying it."
Mr Dayeian asked the witness if he was "making this up".
"Nup," Mr Ghanem replied.
The magistrate noted the witness was "unresponsive" when asked who had told him to attend court last month. But he denied allegations he was lying and said he was "telling the truth".
Mr Dayeian told the court he "rejected everything ... that came out of (the witness's) mouth".
In her closing remarks, Magistrate Trad said it was "difficult to accept [Mr Ghanem was] a witness of any particular value to the court".
"His demeanour was interesting to say the least," she said.
"He seemed very guarded [and] it seems the evidence was contrived.
"It struck me as very self serving. It stood up to no scrutiny whatsoever."
'HE WAS NOT ALLOWED TO CONTACT ME'
Ms Learmonth previously told the court she believed the November 10 Instagram message from Mr Mehajer was a coded way of telling her he knew where she was working and was watching her.
Mr Mehajer has denied sending the message, insisting his Instagram account was hacked. He last month told the court he believed Ms Learmonth sent the message to herself when he left the phone on his bedside table and she allegedly stayed in his bed.
Ms Learmonth gave evidence in March from a police station via video link because she did not want to be in the same room as him.
Magistrate Trad allowed her to do so, despite opposition from Mr Mehajer, because Ms Learmonth gave physical and mental reasons that were supported by a letter from her GP.
Ms Learmonth wiped away tears as she told a court of the Instagram message that made her "uneasy" and scared to be alone.
Ms Learmonth, who revealed the couple divorced earlier in March, said she took a screenshot of the message before she deleted it and blocked Mr Mehajer.
Asked why she responded that way, she told Mr Dayeian: "He was not allowed to contact me."
Ms Learmonth believed the Instagram message was from her ex-husband because it was sent from his account and the contents were things he had repeated "numerous" times to her.
"That he realised the person he had become and that he was a changed person," she said.
They were sentiments "Salim himself" had shared with her many times before.
What alarmed her was the pointed references to her beauty business.
"It was pointing out things about my business ... more of a way to say he knows about it ... I'd made every attempt to make it private."
She added: "Salim tends to find out what I'm up to."
The couple married in an elaborate ceremony that closed a Sydney street and bewildered the nation in August 2015 before the relationship soon turned sour. The former Auburn Council deputy mayor has been involved in a marathon of court hearings ever since.