Man Sentenced For Extorting Money From His Kidnapper Who Robbed and Beat Him
Jolen Ghorbani, 28, received the sentence.
A Maryland man has been sentenced to 18 months in prison for trying to extort money from the kidnapper who robbed and beat him. It's bizarre turn in a case his attorney compared to Alice in Wonderland, as the Washington Post reported. Last Friday, Jolen Ghorbani, 28, received the sentence for threatening Tray Sherman via Instagram direct messages in June 2022. Sherman and a group of others had kidnapped and beaten Ghorbani a year earlier, and Ghorbani was about to testify to that. But he offered an alternate solution. "Call me if you want to finesse trial," Ghorbani wrote in the June 2022 message, according to court documents. Read on to find out what else happened.
"Your Choice My Boy"
Sherman had pleaded not guilty to a charge of kidnapping Ghorbani, and he faced jail time. Ghorbani repeatedly offered either to skip testifying or lie on the stand in exchange for $5,000, according to Instagram chat logs shown in a criminal complaint. "Either you cough off up sum bread or sit in the feds for next 20 years," Ghorbani allegedly wrote in one messages to Sherman. "Your choice my boy."
The Original Crime
A month ago, Sherman was sentenced to 10 ½ years in prison for kidnapping Ghorbani in February 2021. Ghorbani said he was staying at the MGM National Harbor hotel and casino in Oxon Hill, Maryland, when he met up with two men for a drug deal. One of them was Sherman. After the men obtained cocaine, two men entered the car that contained Ghorbani, Sherman and another man and threatened Ghorbani with guns. The four men allegedly took Ghorbani to the boiler room of an apartment building, where they beat him and threatened his life. After demanding the password to Ghorbani's hotel room safe, two of the men stole more than $10,000, according to court documents. The other two took Ghorbani's watch, wallet, phone, and cocaine. Then they released him.
"How Much Not to Testify???"
Sherman was arrested and charged with the kidnapping in March 2021. In June 2022, Ghorbani started sending Sherman offers to throw the trial, which was scheduled for the following month. "Lol you're gonna sit in Prison next decade," Ghorbani messaged Sherman on Instagram, the Post reported. Prosecutors said that on June 18, Ghorbani contacted Sherman again, taunting him with the prospect of jail time, then asking for $5,000 paid in cryptocurrency. "Should be focused on that trial date my boy," Ghorbani wrote, according to his indictment. "How much not to testify???" "Your trial this month if you want me to forget who you were that morning or how you look …" he added an hour later.
Charge: Bribery of a Witness
According to the Department of Justice, Ghorbani shared the messages he sent to Sherman with another individual, bragging that he (Ghorbani) was "[d]ancing with the devil," and referring to Sherman, stating, "I'm auctioning off his freedom." Ghorbani was charged with bribery of a witness in October 2022 and pleaded guilty in January. His machinations were ultimately for naught: Sherman ended up pleading guilty to kidnapping in July.
"One of the Strangest Cases"
Stuart Berman, Ghorbani's lawyer, wrote in a sentencing memo that the bizarre nature of Ghorbani's crime was "straight out of Alice's Adventures in Wonderland" and that his client had sent the first of the messages in "a drunken episode." "This is one of the strangest cases in the history of that courthouse," he told the Post. However, he added that he thought the judge's sentence—18 months in prison, followed by three years of supervised release—was fair.