June 29, 2005 Wednesday
NASSAU AND SUFFOLK EDITION
SECTION: NEWS; Pg. A16
LENGTH: 424 words
HEADLINE: Daughter of slain mom awarded $10M
BYLINE: BY ANN GIVENS. STAFF WRITER
Ourida Bessaha believed that her estranged husband was trying to hide millions of dollars in overseas banks and real estate, but days before an important divorce hearing on the subject, he bludgeoned her to death, a Nassau jury found in 2002.
Now, a judge has ruled that the couple's daughter Nora, 33, should get the money her mother was owed - and then some.
State Supreme Court Justice Roy Mahon awarded the Manhattan woman more than $10 million, which she and her lawyer will try to recover from Queens apartment buildings, Paris bank accounts and real estate in Algeria, their native country.
"We are going to vigorously look for the assets," said Nora Bessaha's attorney, Charles Mirotznik of Manhattan. "Although not enough, the financial security will at least provide the children with the necessity of a more secure future and life."
Ali Bessaha, 67, who is serving 25 years to life in prison for his second-degree murder conviction, declined to contest the wrongful death suit.
Nora Bessaha declined to comment through her lawyer.
Ourida Bessaha had filed an order of protection against her husband in 1979, then started divorce proceedings in 1996.
At the time of her death, Ourida, 54, had gotten a court order barring her husband from transferring their assets overseas, but he was continuing to do it anyway, federal agents who were investigating the matter said at the time.
The landlord and former taxi driver killed his wife with a blunt instrument days before a divorce hearing at which he believed the judge was going to force the sale of four buildings, worth a total of $1 million, and divide the proceeds between the two spouses, according to federal and county prosecutors. Her son found her in their Hicksville home.
In all, Mirotznik said he believes Bessaha has "several million" in assets.
In his decision, Mahon awarded Nora Bessaha and Ourida Bessaha's estate $5 million for pain and suffering, and $5 million as punitive damages.
One reason for the large judgment, he said, was the brutality of the crime.
"The defendant's acts constituted some of the most reprehensible conceivable in civilized society: the brutal and savage slaying of a spouse. Defendant's conduct took the life of Ourida Bessaha and left her two adult children without a mother for the rest of their lives."
Mirotznik said he hopes the judgment will serve as a deterrent for people considering similar crimes.
"They should realize that not only is there a possibility of being caught, but when they're caught, the courts will enforce strong awards," he said.