published Thursday, March 24th, 2011

Mother, children charged over altered photo

A year ago, Murad “Marc” Abdelnour’s ex-wife and two children accused him of vandalizing their downtown clothing store.

A judge dismissed the case after expert testimony revealed that the photo apparently showing Abdelnour breaking into the store had been altered on a computer.

This month, his accusers face their own charges related to the same case.

“I feel relief, people know the truth,” Abdelnour, 51, said in a Wednesday phone interview.

Sana M. Dabit, 47; Pierre M. Dabit, 27; and Rania Marie Abdelnour, 21, were indicted earlier this month on a charge of “a false statement under oath.”

The statements were made in Sessions Court in March 2009 during the hearing for Murad Abdelnour.

Sana Dabit is the ex-wife of Murad Abdelnour and the other two are their children. He and Sana Dabit divorced in 2007, Murad Abdelnour said, while Pierre is his adopted son and Rania Abdelnour is his biological daughter.

The Dabit family owns Giorgio’s Mens Warehouse on Market Street.

The new indictment states that Rania Abdelnour and both Dabits testified in Sessions Court that “he/she looked at a video of Murad Abdelnour vandalizing the door lock at Giorgio’s business on January 20, 2009.” Their court testimony resulted in a grand jury indictment against Murad Abdelnour.

According to Chattanooga Times Free Press archives, Judge Barry Steelman dismissed charges against Murad Abdelnour in March 2010 after a photographic expert showed that the photo taken from store video had been altered and someone had added Murad’s Abdelnour’s face to another photo.

In the new indictment, Pierre Dabit is charged with altering the photograph. When reached by phone at the store Wednesday, Pierre Dabit declined to comment.

A separate indictment also charges Pierre Dabit with tampering with evidence. The document states that, between Jan. 28, 2009, and March 5, 2009, Pierre Dabit, “did unlawfully, knowing that an investigation or official proceeding is pending or in progress, alter, destroy or conceal evidence.”

Sana Dabit on Tuesday asked the Times Free Press to remove her son’s arrest photograph from the newspaper’s Right2Know database, which displays the mug shots of those arrested in Hamilton County. She said the charges were “bogus and lies” and that she expected them to be dropped.

All three defendants are scheduled to appear in Hamilton County Criminal Court on April 1.

about Todd South...

Todd South covers courts, poverty, technology, military and veterans for the Times Free Press. He has worked at the paper since 2008 and previously covered crime and safety in Southeast Tennessee and North Georgia. Todd’s hometown is Dodge City, Kan. He served five years in the U.S. Marine Corps and deployed to Iraq before returning to school for his journalism degree from the University of Georgia. Todd previously worked at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. Contact ...

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