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The first time California jail escapee fled? As a teen from the Marines

Years before his other well-known instances of taking flight – from criminal cases in Madera County, Orange County and, finally, from the Orange County jail itself -- Hossein Nayeri fled his post as a U.S. Marine.

Nayeri, now 37, enlisted in the Marine Corps as a teenager in August 1998 but vanished from his post at Camp Pendleton not long after completing boot camp, according to military records.

Nayeri was labeled a deserter and remained missing from October 1998 to March 1999. When he was found, the Marines put him in the brig for 47 days, court-martialed him and kicked him out under a “bad conduct” discharge, said Marines spokeswoman Yvonne Carlock.

“He barely earned the title Marine,” she said.

That did not stop Nayeri from invoking his military service when he was seeking leniency in connection with the 2005 drunk-driving death of a friend in Madera County.

Nayeri was arrested on suspicion of vehicular manslaughter with gross negligence, posted bond and disappeared,. He was captured in Seattle more than a year later and ultimately pleaded guilty to manslaughter without gross negligence, which carried a maximum of four years in prison.

In a letter to a sentencing judge in 2009, Nayeri wrote that he and some friends from his wrestling team decided to join the military after high school in Fresno.

“After careful consideration, we decided to join the Marine Corps because we wanted a challenge and the Marine Corps was perceived as the toughest and the best,” Nayeri wrote. “I even took it a step further and worked hard and qualified for Reconnaissance School.”

His military service was a theme in many other letters written on his behalf.

His sister, Negar Nayeri, praised her brother, saying that “he joined the Marine Corps at the age of 18, graduating second in his class and being part of the selected few to be chosen for reconnaissance.”

In another letter, a high-school friend with whom he had joined the Marines wrote: “The Marine Corps made us into men.”

The letters did not mention his desertion. The Marine Corps said Nayeri was not in the service long enough to become a specialist in reconnaissance or any other area.

A Madera County judge gave Nayeri a suspended prison sentence, plus time served in county jail, and released him into a one-year substance abuse rehabilitation program, said Steven Geringer, his attorney on the case.

Nayeri now faces life in prison if convicted on charges of kidnapping, aggravated mayhem, torture and burglary. Prosecutors say that Nayeri, along with two other men, kidnapped a pot dispensary dealer from his Newport Beach home, dragged him to the desert and cut off his penis in October 2012.

Authorities said Nayeri fled to Iran as their investigation closed in on him, but he was captured in Europe in late 2013 and returned to Orange County.

He was awaiting trial in the kidnapping case when, on Jan. 22, authorities say he masterminded a breakout from the jail. Nayeri and two other escapees – who were being held on unrelated cases – are all now back in custody.

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©2016 the Los Angeles Times

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