Man accused of 1999 murder of footballer's daughter appears in court 

A man accused of murdering the daughter of a Hall of Fame football player in 1999 made his first appearance in San Mateo County Superior Court today in connection with his second trial for the crime.

Mohammed Haroon Ali, 35, was convicted in San Mateo County Superior Court in 2001 of the strangulation murder of his girlfriend, Tracey Biletnikoff, but a federal appeals court last year overturned the conviction, thus requiring a retrial.

Biletnikoff, 20, was the daughter of former Oakland Raiders wide receiver and Pro Football Hall of Fame member Fred Biletnikoff.

Ali appeared before Superior Court Judge Susan Etezadi today at a hearing that was slated to be for the scheduling of future court dates, including a possible trial date.

But Etezadi postponed the proceeding until another hearing on June 18 that will include the setting of future court dates and identification of Ali's defense attorneys for the retrial, according to Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.

Wagstaffe, who was elected district attorney on Tuesday and will assume that post in January, was the prosecutor in Ali's first trial and plans to continue in that role in the retrial.

Biletnikoff, who lived with her father in the East Bay, met Ali through a San Mateo County drug treatment program where they were both working as counselors after having recovered from drug addictions.

Her body was found on Feb. 15, 1999, on the campus of Canada College near Redwood City. Ali was later arrested in San Diego as he drove Biletnikoff's car across the border from Mexico where he had fled.

Ali admitted to strangling Biletnikoff during an argument over his relapse into alcohol and drug use, but argued that the crime should be considered manslaughter rather than murder on the ground that he allegedly acted in the heat of passion because he feared the relapse would lead to his being deported to his native Fiji.

In his first trial, Ali was sentenced to 55 years in prison for murder plus another nine for a previous kidnapping conviction for which he had been on parole.

His conviction was upheld by state courts but was overturned by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco last year on the ground that prosecutors dismissed at least one and possibly two black potential jurors from the jury pool for improper racial reasons.

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