Trial for brother, sister accused in green-card slaying begins

Two years ago, the $500 payments Shanika Robinson got each week for her sham marriage stopped coming. She was so angry, prosecutors say, that she spun a web that ultimately ensnared four Washington area men.

Authorities said one was slain, and one hanged himself. A third pleaded guilty to murder. The last, Robinson’s brother, is now on trial for murder alongside her.

Shahabuddin Rana, 44, the owner of Pizza Mart in the 2300 block of Fourth Street NE, was killed after he stopped making the payments to Robinson, prosecutors said. Robinson, they said, had been given the cash to marry Rana’s brother, a Pakistani national who wanted to obtain U.S. citizenship.

But after immigration officials discovered that the marriage was a sham, Rana called Robinson and told her that he wasn’t going to pay her anymore, prosecutors said. Rana, who had learned that Robinson, 28, was cheating on his brother, also told her that he wasn’t paying her “to have sex with other men” and called her an epithet, said Assistant U.S. Attorney Jocelyn Ballantine, who quoted from a message that Robinson allegedly recorded.

Robinson, the prosecutor said during opening statements Wednesday in Robinson’s murder trial in D.C. Superior Court, was facing eviction from her rented Capitol Heights home and was desperate for money. Ballantine saidRobinson devised a plan, sketched out in a diary she kept at home , with her younger brother, Leon Robinson, 27, and a boyfriend, Isiah Genus, 28, to frighten Rana into continuing the payments.

Shanika Robinson and Leon Robinson are on trial for the 2009 killing of Shahabuddin Rana in D.C. (Special to The Washington Post)

About 4 a.m. on Aug. 18, 2009, the three drove to the pizzeria where Rana worked the overnight shift, prosecutors said. Robinson persuaded Rana to let her in through the front door while the two men hid. As Rana opened the door, the two men pushed their way inside.

Genus began stabbing Rana, and Leon Robinson repeatedly struck Rana in the head with a hammer, prosecutors said. While the men were attacking Rana, Robinson was in another part of the store grabbing about $2,000 in cash and cigarettes. Before the three fled, they tried to set Rana’s body on fire, prosecutors said.

Later, the three returned to Robinson’s home and burned their clothes, which were covered in Rana’s blood, in a backyard grill, Ballantine said. They also disposed of the hammer and knife, she said. Robinson also allegedly used bleach to wash out the car they had used to drive to the pizzeria, but Ballantine said D.C. police were able to find spots of Rana’s blood in the car.

Robinson sat expressionless next to her attorneyswhile Ballantine detailed the prosecution’s theory of the slaying. Robinson’s brother sat at the same table. Both face several counts, including first-degree murder, burglary, felony murder and conspiracy.

One of Robinson’s attorneys , Philip C. Andonian of the District’s Public Defender Service, did not deny that Robinson had agreed to the marriage arrangement but argued that his client had “no reason” to kill Rana and had expected the payments to eventually cease. Andonian said that when Rana was killed, Robinson had already begun looking for a job and was doing hair on the side to “make ends meet.” She even contemplated alerting authorities about the sham marriage, her attorney said.

Absent from the scheme, prosecutors said, but not absent from tragedy, was Terrence Greene, a D.C. police detective who had a relationship with Robinson. Greene, 29, who was married, had been on the force for seven years and had just been promoted to investigator.

After Rana’s slaying, homicide detectives questioned Greene about the killing, sources familiar with the case said. They said he hanged himself in the basement of his mother’s home after testifying before a grand jury.

At a hearing this week before Judge William Jackson, prosecutors argued that although Greene was in a relationship with Robinson, he was not at the scene at the time of Rana’s killing. Kevin McCants, Leon Robinson’s attorney, had wanted to bring Greene’s relationship into the trial.

Rana learned about Robinson’s relationships with other men when she got pregnant and miscarried, and also learned that his brother was not the father, prosecutors said. Instead, Robinson had led both Greene and Genus to believe each of them was the father, Ballantine said.

Just hours after Rana’s slaying, Robinson paid her $1,600 rent in cash, Ballantine said.Robinson then allegedly told a cousin, who was living with her, about the attack.

The attorneys for the Robinsons attacked the credibility of Genus and of Robinson’s cousin, both of whom are scheduled to testify for the prosecution. McCants said Genus, who later pleaded guilty to second-degree murder and conspiracy in Rana’s slaying, was bitter that Robinson had allegedly infected him with a sexually transmitted disease. Andonian argued that Genus killed Rana in an effort to prove his dedication to Robinson and that Robinson’s cousin fabricated the story to receive a cash reward offered by police.

As their first witness, prosecutors called Rana’s daughter Zeenashah Rana, 20. Zeenashah said her father came to the United States in 1998 for “better opportunities,” and his younger brother Allauddin, who had married Robinson, arrived in 2006.

On the stand, the 20-year-old University of Maryland sophomore said her father was scheduled to take her to Baltimoreon the day he was killed so she could apply for citizenship. After she called her father’s cellphone repeatedly and got no answer, a friend took her to take the test, she said.

She later got a text about “something happening” at the pizzeria. She used her phone and Googled the pizzeria, learning that her father had been killed.

Keith Alexander covers crime, specifically D.C. Superior Court cases for The Washington Post. He has covered dozens of crime stories from Banita Jacks, the Washington woman charged with killing her four daughters, to the murder trial of slain federal intern Chandra Levy.
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