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USA Khalsa: 'I Am Not Guilty'


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004
Related story Emotions overflow after guilty verdict: Heated exchange between two families

By Scott Smith
Record Staff Writer
December 17, 2010 12:00 AM

FRENCH CAMP - Gurparkash Khalsa will walk into a Stockton courtroom today to hear a judge sentence him to life in prison for the murder of his daughter's ex-lover.

The 58-year-old - who hails from in a village in India and rose to prominence in San Joaquin County's Sikh community - maintains his innocence.

"I am not guilty of any wrongdoing," he said Thursday, calling the evidence used to convict him "fabricated" and the story prosecutors presented to jurors "totally twisted."

Khalsa said he doesn't know who murdered Ajmer Hothi, 23, but blames human jealousy and politics for leading officials to zero in on him. Khalsa said he has no doubt he will one day be exonerated and go home.

Khalsa agreed to an interview with The Record at the San Joaquin County Jail, where he has been incarcerated since his arrest in April 2008, some 13 months after officials say he stalked Hothi down to his parked big-rig and opened fire.

In the wide-ranging interview, Khalsa defended his tarnished reputation, proclaimed his piety and agonized over the suffering his wife and children have endured.

At times he became choked by emotion.

"They're trying to show me as a cruel man," he said of officials. "I'm not like that. I loved that boy."

Prosecutors accused Khalsa, who owned Pacific Coast Intermodal trucking firm in French Camp, of ambushing Hothi out of frustration because he refused to marry his 17-year-old daughter, Kiranjot Pannu.

Khalsa initially forbade Hothi from seeing his daughter because of class differences, according to prosecutors. Hothi also had a pierced ear and long hair.

Khalsa later learned his daughter had aborted Hothi's child, prosecutors say, and Khalsa went to great lengths trying to meet Hothi's family in India. At one point, he hired a private investigator.

Hothi had married yet continued a sexual relationship with Khalsa's daughter, further infuriating Khalsa, according to evidence San Joaquin County Deputy District Attorney Robert Himelblau presented.

Khalsa refuted each point of the story, in which Himelblau paints Khalsa of holding old-world values that clashed with modern American dating mores. Khalsa said he is educated and had immersed himself in Western culture. He worked for years in a Stockton bank.

He also said he didn't learn about his daughter's abortion until after Hothi's death, wiping away the claim that he carried out the murder in an attempt to right his daughter's honor.

Figures in the local Sikh community - whom he did not name - became jealous of his success and influenced prosecutors to pursue Khalsa as Hothi's killer, he said. Since his arrest, Khalsa's business, which generated $3 million a year, has fallen to ruin, his family has sold their home and they now live in a rental.

"I was a convenient candidate for them to get me," he said of investigators, who arrested him the day before his daughter's wedding. "They wanted to break me."

Khalsa said that if he had something to hide, he could have easily fled to India and disappeared forever.

In response, Himelblau said Thursday that he stands by his case. Yes, it was built on circumstantial evidence, but every part of it pointed in one direction - toward Khalsa, Himelblau said.

"There's so many little pieces that by themselves are meaningless," he said. "But put into context with other pieces, they are huge."

Khalsa said he maintains his faith in the American judicial system, which he said has so far failed him. San Joaquin County Superior Court Judge Charlotte Orcutt is expected to sentence him to life in prison without the possibility of parole.

"At the end one day the truth shall come," he said. "I will clear my name. I will one day be a free man."




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