The woman who was paid $500 a week to marry a Washington pizzeria owner’s brother in an immigration scheme denied in testimony Tuesday that she hatched a deadly plan after the payments stopped.
Soft-spoken and sometimes crying, Shanika Robinson told a D.C. Superior Court jury that Shahabuddin Rana, 44, owner of the Pizza Mart in the 2300 block of Fourth Street NE, was a controlling man who sometimes stopped paying her when angry — but who could always be persuaded to start paying again.
Robinson, 28, and her brother and co-defendant Leon, 27, have been charged with first-degree murder and other crimes in connection with Rana’s August 2009 slaying.
Prosecutors said Robinson, her brother and one of her boyfriends, Isiah Genus, 28, went to Rana’s pizzeria about 4 a.m. as Rana worked the overnight shift. Robinson persuaded Rana to let her in through the front door while the two men hid, according to prosecutors, and then the men pushed their way inside.
Genus stabbed Rana, and Leon Robinson hit him on the head with a hammer, according to prosecutors. Shanika Robinson allegedly rummaged through the store for things to steal.
She was the last of the three defendants charged with Rana’s murder to take the stand. Genus, who has pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, testified last week that he cut Rana’s throat twice. On Monday, Leon Robinson told the jury that he was not at the Pizza Mart during the killing.
Dressed in a royal blue shirt, black pants, blouse and red glasses, Shanika Robinson described Rana as a “generous, kind, good person” who often let her have things from the store and pay for them later.
Laid off from a job at the post office, Robinson said, her unemployment checks were running out in October 2008. She said she asked Rana for a job at the pizzeria, but he offered her something else: Marry his younger brother Allauddin, who had come to the United States from Pakistan in 2006, for two or three years, and he would pay her.
Robinson said she initially refused. “I knew it was illegal,” she told the jury. But then, Robinson said, Rana offered more money.
Before she accepted the offer, she said, she told Rana that she was dating Terrence V. Green, a married D.C. police detective whom she had been with for seven years. Rana said he was “fine” with that relationship, Robinson testified, and she married his brother Oct. 31, 2008.
Robinson said she moved some of her belongings to her new husband’s Silver Spring house but stayed in her Capitol Heights home and generally visited her husband on Sundays. Each Friday or Saturday, Robinson said, she would go to the Pizza Mart, where Shahabuddin Rana would count out $500 in cash from a cigar box in his office.
Then, in January 2009, Robinson said, he stopped paying her. He was angry, she said, that she and his brother had not consummated their relationship.
“I told him no. I had never had sex with anyone outside of my race,” said Robinson, who is African American.
Robinson later agreed to have sex with her husband, she said, and the payments resumed. “I felt like a prostitute,” Robinson said under questioning by one of her attorneys, Thomas L. Dybdahl of the District’s Public Defender Service.
Rana also paid Robinson’s cellphone bill, she said, but cut the phone off at one point when he could not reach her. Robinson went to the Pizza Mart and persuaded him to have the phone turned back on, she said.
He became angry with her again when an immigration agent questioned the marriage in July 2009 after Robinson and Allauddin Rana gave conflicting answers about their wedding night. She argued with Shahabuddin Rana after the conversation with the agent, Robinson said, and then she consulted a lawyer she found in the Yellow Pages about the possibility of exposing the marriage.
Robinson said she was unable to resolve the conflict with Shahabuddin Rana.
On Tuesday, Dybdahl did not have time to ask Robinson about the night of Rana’s death before Judge William M. Jackson recessed the trial for the day. Robinson is expected to take the stand again Wednesday.