End of the Line
Only the appearance of the spectator seemed to separate this sentencing from the rest of the routine business of the Harris County criminal justice system last week.
Defendant John Shike stood before the judge and listened as his attorney inquired about the woman in the audience of misdemeanor court. Is the complainant present? The lawyer wanted to know why.
"She has every right to be here," prosecutor Bridget Anderson remembers replying. "She wants to make sure he does the time that he's supposed to do, the time he was sentenced to do."
With that issue out of the way, spectator Saba Hameed clutched the hand of her new husband and silently watched Judge Larry Standley order Shike, her ex, to begin formally serving his 180-day jail term.
Seven years have now passed since Shike and two deputy constables surprised Hameed with the mental-health arrest warrant he obtained against her, on claims she was mentally incompetent. Hameed had worked up the courage to take her children and move out from the allegedly abusive Shike. She pleaded with authorities not to take her away, questioning how she could work as an HISD substitute teacher that same day -- then be declared deranged by her estranged husband hours later.
But they hauled her to the Harris County Psychiatric Center for 13 hours of examinations, drug tests and confinement with mentally imbalanced wards. Doctors concluded that Hameed was telling the truth about her stability.
Later that year, jurors convicted Shike of filing the false report. However, much like the protracted 1993 divorce case that remains on appeal by him, Shike stretched his legal challenges to the criminal conviction all the way to the state's highest appellate court. And he repeatedly filed suits on his own against those who dared defend his former wife.
By the conclusion last week, the original prosecutor had departed the office. There was a new criminal judge. And John Montgomery, the jurist who presided in the contentious divorce, was dead.
Only Hameed, it seems, feels as if the events happened yesterday. "I have flashbacks about being locked away," she says. "It was just like being put in jail. Being locked away was so scary, and I'm still scared."
"I never felt like I 'won' anything," she says. "I was always having to defend myself. I always feel guilty when these people who try to help me wind up getting sued. They have suffered terribly."
More delays would have been in order if Hameed herself had not called the district attorney's office to check on the status of the sentencing, which had yet to be scheduled. "The earlier prosecutor said, 'Don't worry, Saba. He's just abusing the system. One day justice will be done.' It finally has been."
John Shike is a mortgage broker and high-profile member of the Pakistani immigrant community. He has hosted his own rambling cable-access show, The Houston Connection . Under different names, he ran for City Council in 1977, for Congress in 1980 and for the Texas legislature two years later.
While public office eludes him, he has amassed a remarkable string of litigation. The county district clerk's computer index lists several suits or related legal actions involving Shike, and he's the plaintiff in almost all of them.
Some of those suits target Hameed and those who have come to her defense. After the Houston Press did a feature on his exploits ("One-Man Mob," by Steve McVicker, May 8, 1997), he filed a libel suit that was later dismissed.
Hameed first met Shike in her native Pakistan in 1992, where she worked as an English teacher. She says the man presented himself as a colonel in an investigation bureau and a wealthy homeowner while he romanced her. She accepted his marriage proposal and moved with her two children to Houston. There, Hameed says, she quickly found out that he'd greatly exaggerated most aspects of his life. Her family was wedged into a modest apartment with his kids from a prior marriage, and he worked as a grocery store security guard, she says.
Friction increased rapidly. Hameed says he abused her and her children, and he threw her out of the residence in early 1993. He also sued a couple who had helped convince her to file abuse charges against him, charges that were later dismissed when a reconciliation was attempted.
By August of that year, Hameed says, he had turned suicidal. She had him committed. He was released the next day from the psychiatric center. A staff member found no evidence of his being delusional, but recommended that he take lithium. Later that month, it was Shike who had Hameed committed.
While Shike filed several abuse complaints on Hameed, Houston police concluded that he was the one harassing her. Police referred her to the Victim's Assistance Center and Aid to Victims of Domestic Abuse. Those agencies helped Hameed file for divorce, but Shike soon centered a new legal attack on them. He sued Hameed's relatives, AVDA and staff members of the agency, accusing them of making threats and working with Hameed to file false reports against him.
While the defendants say the allegations were absurd, the suit forced the organization to drop its defense of his estranged wife. Shike even filed complaints on a law enforcement officer who helped Hameed.
Finally Stewart Gagnon, an attorney with Fulbright & Jaworski, stepped forward and volunteered to take her case after other lawyers had been scared away by Shike's tactics. In the 1996 divorce trial, jurors returned a verdict ordering Shike to pay $1.6 million for Hameed's suffering and for punitive damages. Shike's abrasive style also led Judge Montgomery to level $67,000 in fines against Shike for his conduct. And concerned jurors even made a special plea to keep their personal jury-card information sealed from Shike's access.
Judgments and convictions hardly curtailed Shike's ardor. As one who claimed indigent status in his filings, he scoffed at the divorce verdict and insists he's an innocent victim of bigotry and lies.
And based on a 1997 divorce petition filed by Shike against another woman, he continues to be victimized. Shike accused the woman, a former business associate who moved to California, of withholding $60,000 in mortgage loan fees from him. She kicked and otherwise brutalized him, he said, and her family actually tricked him into marrying her because he didn't understand in their Muslim Bori religion or language that he was taking the vows. They've threatened him repeatedly.
Worse yet, the woman forced his kids to take only two-minute showers and "were forced to eat leftovers." He came home early one day and discovered "the true face" of this woman, his petition said.
She denied all the allegations, and the divorce suit was dismissed the following year when neither side showed up for a hearing. Hameed has fared better by all accounts. She met Ashraq Sharif and married him in December. "He was by my side when it was dangerous to even make friends with me," she says. "I am blessed to have him here. He is a wonderful man."
Shike lost earlier rounds of appeals in his Hameed divorce case, but is now taking that one to the Texas Supreme Court. He maintains they were never married, that key evidence was withheld and that the verdict was swayed by bias from the judge and others. The court found that they had a common-law marriage, and Shike himself filed for divorce from her earlier.
Attorney Gagnon, who is still representing Hameed, says new information about various businesses of Shike's make Gagnon hopeful of someday forcing Shike to pay at least some of the judgment. "We are in the process of trying to collect," he says. "We'll keep pursuing it."
On the criminal front, Shike pressed his challenge of the verdict all the way to the state Court of Criminal Appeals. When that was rejected, he filed a writ of habeas corpus in state district court. Among other points, he argued that Hameed had a mere 13 hours in psychiatric custody, hardly enough to say he'd had her committed.
He has about 140 days of jail time left on his original sentence. With good time, he'll serve about three months, prosecutor Anderson says. His attorney, Stanley Schneider, who could not be reached for comment, asked Judge Standley to delay the actual start of the jail term. The judge noted that seven years was a long enough delay. "The judge said he needs to go in now," Anderson says. "They immediately took him."
Another spectator present in court was Marinelle Timmons, of the Victim's Assistance Center, which had been targeted by Shike. "As much as he stalked and abused her, she wanted to see him finally held responsible for what he'd done," she says.
Timmons hopes the long delay in justice doesn't keep other domestic abuse victims from pursuing action. "Her case was just so unusual in so many ways. Not all perpetrators keep after it for so long. I can't even begin to guess how much taxpayer money and time has been taken up with his senseless issues."
Hameed says she worries about what might happen when he is released. Timmons also wonders if it is over. "He's just constantly avoiding having to face responsibility," she says. "We probably haven't heard the end of it. The thrill of chaos keeps him going -- he thrives on it."
Get the Weekly Newsletter
Our weekly feature stories, movie reviews, calendar picks and more - minus the newsprint and sent directly to your inbox.