Prosecutors drop one charge against Zeitoun

Associated Press photo by Michael DeMocker -- Abdulrahman Zeitoun and his wife, Kathy, pose for a photo in their Broadmoor home in New Orleans in 2009. Abdulrahman Zeitoun, who paddled his canoe through the eerily quiet flooded landscape of New Orleans while helping people and animals after Hurricane Katrina, has been accused of trying to hire someone to murder his now ex-wife, her son and another man. Show caption
Associated Press photo by Michael DeMocker -- Abdulrahman Zeitoun and his wife, Kathy, pose for a photo in their Broadmoor home in New Orleans in 2009. Abdulrahman Zeitoun, who paddled his canoe through the eerily quiet flooded landscape of New Orleans while helping people and animals after Hurricane Katrina, has been accused of trying to hire someone to murder his now ex-wife, her son and another man.

Fallen folk hero Abdulrahman Zeitoun, once considered a national symbol of enduring love amid post-Katrina chaos until he was arrested last summer for allegedly trying to kill his ex-wife, now faces one less charge as he awaits trial.

Although prosecutors on Friday dismissed a charge that he violated a protective order prohibiting contact with Kathy Zeitoun, his legal troubles remain serious. Zeitoun’s locked up at Orleans Parish Prison, accused of attempted first-degree murder and solicitation of first-degree murder. That case is scheduled to go to trial July 1.

Zeitoun is the star of Dave Eggers’ bestseller “Zeitoun,” a narration of the month he spent in jail after the storm on fabricated looting charges, and the support of his loving wife, Kathy, who saw him through it.

But Kathy Zeitoun has since told police that her now former husband abused and threatened her for years, both before the storm and after.

The worst came in March 2011, she once testified. He beat her mercilessly in front of her children, she said. He was charged with domestic abuse battery and pleaded guilty to the lesser charge of negligent injuring, with a six-month suspended sentence. Then in July he attacked her with a tire iron, she said, and he wrapped his hands around her neck and squeezed.

He went to jail, where he allegedly offered another inmate $20,000 to kill Kathy Zeitoun, and possibly a boyfriend or her son with another man. He offered specific instructions, and told his cellmate to buy a cellphone to take pictures of the bodies, according to the inmate’s testimony at a hearing earlier this year. Zeitoun, meanwhile, was forbidden by the court from contacting his wife from jail.

But on July 15, he allegedly tried to contact her.

Court records do not indicate how Zeitoun tried to reach her and prosecutors declined to say, citing a strict gag order Orleans Parish Judge Frank Marullo imposed on the case.

He was charged in March with violating the protective order.

He was scheduled for trial on that charge on Friday. Zeitoun has elected to be tried by a judge alone, rather than a jury, on all of his charges.

But prosecutors announced Friday that they were dismissing the violation charge against him, though did not cite their reasons in open court.

Chris Bowman, spokesman for the District Attorney, declined on Friday to explain the decision, citing the gag order.

Zeitoun faces decades in prison on the other two charges.

The protective order violation carried a maximum of six months in jail, which has nearly passed since the alleged incident occurred.