An unrepentant Albany man who served in the U.S. Army was sentenced today to 16 years in state prison for stabbing another man on a quiet street in the Berkeley hills more than four years ago, an attack that left the victim permanently paralyzed on his left side. Blake Mastro, 23, was convicted in March of attempted murder and robbery for an Oct. 25, 2006, attack on Hamed Mirabdal, a Moraga native who was 19 at the time, in front of a house at 74 Poppy Lane. Prosecutor Eric Swalwell said Mastro, who was accompanied by another man, 27-year-old Nicolas Flatbush of Berkeley, lured Mirabdal to the isolated location by promising to sell guns to Mirabdal at a discounted price.
Swalwell said Mirabdal, who played football at Campolindo High School in Moraga and now attends college, had been reselling marijuana he had bought at medical cannabis clubs and wanted to burnish his “tough guy” reputation by purchasing firearms. But Swalwell said that Mastro never intended to sell guns to Mirabdal and instead wanted to trick him into bringing a large amount of cash so he could kill Mirabdal and take the money. He said Mastro, who had gone AWOL from the Army several months earlier, stabbed Mirabdal 25 times in his neck and chest and that it was a miracle that Mirabdal survived. Mastro, who has a beard and a long ponytail, told Alameda County Superior Court Judge Allan Hymer today, “I should not be in this position now” and “bad things happen to good people.
” Mastro said he has read about many cases in which a group called The Innocence Project has been able to exonerate people who were wrongly convicted of crimes and said, “I fully intend to be on that list” of people who were freed. Mastro said his trial was unfair and “a farce” and said, “I was disappointed in the system. “Mastro said he knows he will be going to prison but when he gets out, “My head will be held high and I will be a better man.” But Hymer told Mastro that, “The(Mirabdal’s) head will never be held high because you left him a prisoner within his own body” because his injuries were so severe.
“Hymer said, “If I ever had any doubt as to your remorse, you showed a complete lack of remorse today.” Mirabdal, who is in a wheelchair, said Mastro’s attack “has affected me in so many ways and has destroyed my family and my life.” “I used to be a very active person,” he said, noting that now he cannot even get dressed or bathe on his own. He said he has a damaged heart valve that makes him tired all the time and he will have to undergo open heart surgery once he is strong enough for the procedure. Referring to Mastro’s service in the Army, Mirabdal said, “I used to think he was a hero for what he did for our country but now I know he’s a coward because he went AWOL and because of what he did to me.
“Flatbush was also charged with attempted murder but jurors acquitted him of that charge and only convicted him of robbery. Hymer sentenced him to two years in state prison last month. Swalwell said Flatbush agreed to help Mastro rob Mirabdal but did not know that Mastro planned to brutally stab Mirabdal. Flatbush testified that Mastro, who is part Jewish and has a Star of David tattoo, uttered racial slurs at Mirabdal when he stabbed him and that he said, “So you hate Jews? “Mirabdal is of Persian descent and his family came to the U.S. from Iran and is Muslim. Mirabdal’s father, Ali Mirabdal, said in court today that, “I have no doubt it was a hate crime.
“But Swalwell said the motive for Mastro’s vicious attack was unclear. The prosecutor said Mastro may have attacked Mirabdal for his money or possibly “because of his ethnic background.”Mastro’s lawyer, Joann Kingston, said during the trial that she believes Mastro was the victim of a conspiracy by Flatbush and prosecutors to blame the crime on him. After Mastro was sentenced today, she said, “I have no question of his innocence.”She said his conviction “was the worst defeat of my life” but she thinks Mastro has good legal grounds for appealing.
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