Man accused of strangling football player's daughter takes stand in murder case 

Tracey Biletnikoff
  • Tracey Biletnikoff

A man on trial for strangling the daughter of a Hall of Fame football player in 1999 took the stand in his own defense for a second consecutive day Thursday.

Mohammed Haroon Ali, 36, said he "wasn't thinking straight" in the moments after he choked his girlfriend Tracey Biletnikoff to death in a San Mateo drug rehabilitation center on Feb. 15, 1999.

Biletnikoff, then 20 years old and a recovering drug addict, was the daughter of former Oakland Raiders wide receiver Fred Biletnikoff.

Under cross-examination by San Mateo County District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe, Ali -- also a recovering drug addict -- said he was scarcely aware of his own actions in the moments after he fought with Biletnikoff over his relapse with alcohol, crack and methamphetamine just days before.

Ali interrupted his own testimony by sobbing and covering his face with his hand.

At one point, Wagstaffe asked, "Mr. Ali, are you going to be able to get a hold of yourself so we can get through this?"

He shook his head no and Judge Barbara Mallach ordered a brief recess for the defendant to compose himself and continue to his testimony.

Ali testified that Biletnikoff was relentlessly insisting that he restart the sobriety program at Project 90, which would likely mean he would lose his counseling job, and possibly submit a "dirty" drug test at a meeting with his probation officer on the following day.

Biletnikoff blocked the doorway to prevent Ali from running away and called him a "loser," he said.

Ali said that he fired back and said "Get the f--k out of my way. Why are you acting like a b---h?"

Ali grabbed Biletnikoff's shoulders and tried to get her to move, he said. She attempted to strike him, and in the struggle his hands moved from her shoulders to her neck.

The next thing he remembered was seeing Biletnikoff dead on the floor, with "big eyes" and "white fluid" coming out of her mouth, he said.

He washed his hands and decided to get a van owned by Project 90 to get the body out of the building, Ali said.

"You had decided that you were going to cover this up, didn't you?" Wagstaffe asked.

"No I didn't" Ali said. "I wasn't thinking straight at that time."

Ali testified that he carried Biletnikoff's body to the van and put her in the front seat. He put her seat belt on and brushed her hair over her face so it would be harder to tell that she was dead.

He then drove the van and the body to his sister's house, where he confessed to his nephew and pleaded for him to give him money to run away.

"You had a variety of cover-up plans for that evening, didn't you?" Wagstaffe asked.

"I didn't know where I was going, what I was doing," Ali said.

Prosecutors allege that Ali intended to kill Biletnikoff by strangling her twice, once with his hands and a second time with a black T-shirt he tied tightly around her neck.

Defense attorney Peter Goldscheider has argued that the homicide was a crime of passion, and that Ali tied the black T-shirt around the victim's neck to make it appear that Biletnikoff had been the victim of a sexual crime.

This is the second time that Ali has been on trial in San Mateo County Superior Court for Biletnikoff's murder.

He was convicted of first-degree murder in 2001 and sentenced to 64 years to life in prison.

In 2009, an appellate court overturned the conviction stating that prosecutors had improperly dismissed at least one black juror, thus requiring a retrial.

Cross-examination is scheduled to continue Monday.

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