STAMFORD, Conn. -- Family members and friends of a Stamford Taxi cab driver who was stabbed to death remembered him as an active community man as they gathered in front of Stamford Superior Court on Friday to ensure justice is done.
The man charged with murder in the case, Shota Mokeshvili, 29, of 1462 Summer St., made his first court appearance just after noon Friday. His bond remained at the $1 million set by Stamford Police after his arrest in a foot chase that went past startled diners on Bedford Street on Wednesday night.
Mahomed Kamal's friends and extended family members are still in shock by the murder of a man who was well known among his fellow Bangledeshi immigrants.
"He was a very nice guy. A very honest guy," said Noor Islam, 42, of Stamford.
Islam, like Kamal, comes from the Chittagong region of Bangledesh. Kamal immigrated to the United States about 15 years ago. His wife Sultana is from Dhaka, Bangladesh. They have a 3-and-a-half-year-old son, Sayfayt.
Kamal was involved with the Chittagong Association of North America, based in Brooklyn, N.Y., said Forkan Ahmed, 27, of Stamford, including working on the association's upcoming election.
"I have not known a single person who has a dispute with him," Ahmed said.
Ahmed and Islam were part of a group of Kamal's friends, relatives and fellow taxi drivers who gathered outside the courthouse with hand-drawn signs demanding justice.
Later, mourners gathered at the Stamford Islamic Center at 10 Outlook St. for Kamal's funeral, which began after 1 p.m. Earlier on Friday, a woman's wails of grief could be heard from the family's multi-unit home at 36 Halloween Blvd. in the city's Shippan section just off Elm Street.
During his short appearance with about a dozen of Kamal's friends looking on, Mokeshvili briefly answered "yes" to a number of questions from Judge Erika M. Tindill about his rights and the charges against him. Mokeshvili, a citizen of the Republic of Georgia who holds a U.S. Green Card, declined to use an interpreter.
Marks were visible on Mokeshvili's face that police said came during his struggle with Kamal as he stabbed the cab driver to death. Police said Kamal picked up Mokeshvili in his cab downtown at about 3 a.m. Wednesday. Mokeshvili told the driver to go to Doolittle Road.
Police said the motive was robbery and said Kamal put up a fierce fight. Kamal's body was found at about 8:30 a.m. at 150 Doolittle Road by landscapers. His taxi was found nearby in a wooded area.
Supervisory Assistant State's Attorney James Bernardi said the prosecution wanted the $1 million police-set bond to stay in place.
Bernardi said Mokeshvili, who has been in the country for only five years, is a flight risk because his strongest ties are to Georgia.
"The evidence is mounting against this man," he said.
His defense lawyer Lindy Urso did not oppose the bond but reserved the right to revisit it. He told the court that Mokeshvili had been in the country for eight years.
He also urged caution in jumping to conclusions about the case.
"It's very, very early. I know from experience that more often than not the true facts are a lot different than they appear to be when this first happens," he said outside the courthouse. "The important thing again to remembers is that in this country you are still presumed to be innocent."
Urso said he had a short conversation with his client before the court appearance.
"Obviously this is a tragedy," Urso added. "I sensed an appropriate sense of remorse, but at the same time a sense of optimism that in the end things will turn out OK for him."
Mokesvili returns to court on Sept. 5 on the murder charge.