A man deemed the "primary suspect" in the stabbing death of his estranged wife in the parking garage of a Century City high-rise was ordered held without bail Wednesday as he awaits trial on a federal charge stemming from the gold trading business he ran with his wife.
U.S. District Judge Otis D. Wright denied bail for James Fayed after reading a court filing by prosecutors in which they said a credit card seized from Fayed's wallet was used to rent an SUV that witnesses saw flee the scene of last week's bloody attack.
Though Fayed has not been charged with Pamela Fayed's slaying, Wright said, "I think the risk is too grave" to allow his release.
Wright brushed aside an argument by Fayed's lawyer that the suspect's alleged involvement in the killing should carry little weight because it is unrelated to the relatively minor charge he is now facing -- conducting unlicensed money transactions.
"I am not focusing on the license. I could care less that he was operating a business without a license," Wright said. "His wife has been murdered. The stakes have now gone up."
The judge said he made his decision without taking into consideration a prosecution contention that Pamela Fayed told prosecutors that she wanted to cooperate with their investigation into the couple's gold trading business about a month before she was killed. The judge said he would "excise" that from his decision because the account was challenged by Fayed's attorney, Mark Werksman.
Fayed, handcuffed and dressed in a white jail jumpsuit, was brought into the courtroom in a wheelchair. Werksman told the judge he suffered from arthritis and other chronic ailments.
Wednesday's hearing was held in response to an order by a federal magistrate Monday granting Fayed's release on $500,000 bail and other conditions, including home confinement. U.S. Magistrate Judge Ralph Zarefsky granted bail after saying he found the link between Fayed's alleged involvement in the murder and the federal charges he was facing "pretty thin." But he stayed the order, allowing Assistant U.S. Atty. Mark Aveis to ask another judge to review it. Aveis, who had labeled Fayed a primary suspect in court papers, argued that it didn't matter that the allegations against Fayed were unrelated to the federal case. All that mattered was that he was a threat and a flight risk. Wright agreed.
Before Wright reached his decision, Werksman told the judge that the government's accusations were nothing more than hearsay.
"I think what the government is trying to do is overwhelm this court with uncorroborated and unsubstantiated allegations," he said.
Wright said the standard for evidence presented at a detention hearing was different from the standard for evidence presented at trial and that he believed that the defendant represents a grave threat.
"I think it's prudent for the court to exercise some degree of caution," he said.
The judge said he considered alternatives to detention, such as home confinement, and "I have no comfort in any of them." The judge seemed to indicate he believed that the evidence against Fayed ultimately would lead to his being charged.
"Sooner or later the other shoe is going to drop," he said.