I haven’t selected a Douche Bag of the Month this year, although there have been many very deserving candidates. But, this one has been bugging me for so long that I finally had to write about it. You may remember the tiger incident at the San Francisco Zoo last Christmas. Really, who can forget it? It was a huge story nationally and it isn’t going away.
There is no doubt in my mind that the incident was caused when three juvenile delinquents (or maybe just two and a tag along) taunted the tiger and caused the whole affair. Evidence in the civil case will prove this, I am certain. Whatever happened (and I obviously have my own opinions) when it was all over one young man and one tiger were dead.
As the story has evolved, we’ve had the unpleasant experience of finding out more and more about the Dhaliwal brothers, the two survivors of the tragedy. We now know one thing for certain—they’re basically punks; wannabe gangsters and future inmates of our penal system.
Well, karma has reared its justified head in these idiots’ direction and payback as they say, is a bitch. And now Paul Dhaliwal, the more offensive of the two, is off to San Quentin. I hope his cellmate is a big, muscular, tiger-loving PETA member. The world has a funny way of making things right, doesn’t it?
This appeared in the Mercury News late last week:
Last Christmas, Amritpal "Paul" Dhaliwal, his brother and longtime friend Carlos ran, bloodied and terrified, as a 250-pound Siberian tiger at the San Francisco Zoo attacked them after escaping from its cement enclosure.
But this year, it's likely 20-year-old Dhaliwal will spend the holiday locked away.
Dhaliwal was sentenced to spend more than a year in state prison this week in connection with a series of run-ins with the law, unrelated to the Christmas Day tiger mauling that wounded him and his brother and left his younger friend, Carlos Sousa Jr., dead.
The ruling marked a strange chapter in the bizarre case that riveted people worldwide with the attack's brutal violence. In the fallout of the Christmas tragedy - which left both Sousa and the tiger, Tatiana, dead - accusations flew at the zoo, the tiger and at the young men themselves.
In the months that followed, more and more, Dhaliwal - who still has the scars from where the tiger clawed at his head - went from victim to pariah, blamed for provoking the attack and sometimes refusing to cooperate with the police investigation.
However, to date, no charges have been filed against either Dhaliwal brother in relation to the mauling.
Today, Paul Dhaliwal's rap sheet includes everything from evading arrest to probation violations for fleeing from sheriff's deputies while pushing speeds more than 130 mph on the highway. In a few weeks, he's headed to San Quentin prison.
He and his older brother Kulbir, who is due in court next week to face his own set of charges, were hoping to win a sizable sum of money after they filed a negligence and defamation suit against the city of San Francisco and the zoo in March.
But hours after the filing, Paul Dhaliwal was arrested in a Target store in San Leandro on suspicion of shoplifting Nintendo Wii video game controllers, leading a judge to decide that Dhaliwal had violated probation on a previous charge.
"It's clear that Paul Dhaliwal doesn't seem to understand that he has to live within the requirements of civilized society," said Santa Clara County Deputy District Attorney Stuart Scott.
According to Scott, Dhaliwal pleaded guilty Wednesday in Santa Clara County to charges he battered an officer during a run-in with police near his San Jose home in September 2007. He struck one of the officers with his forearm after he and Kulbir tried to flee.
The week before, Paul Dhaliwal was in another Santa Clara County courtroom, where a judge sentenced him to 16 months for a probation violation.
Kulbir Dhaliwal will be in Santa Clara County Superior Court on Monday to face misdemeanor charges of public drunkenness and resisting arrest connected to the same run-in with police that his brother pleaded guilty to this week.
Calls to their attorneys Friday were not returned.
The sentencing will likely hurt their civil claim that the zoo's hired spin doctors defamed the Dhaliwals' reputation by claiming they had provoked the tiger.
"The last thing you want to do in the middle of a high-profile lawsuit is get in this kind of trouble," said Steve Clark, a San Jose legal analyst and former prosecutor. "You are contaminating a potential jury pool by putting yourself constantly in the media for the wrong reasons."
But, Michael Cardoza, attorney for the Sousa family, added the zoo should still provide the same level of safety, regardless of what might show up on their rap sheets.
"One would think that anybody going to the zoo should be equally protected from the animals, no matter what their background," Cardoza said. "What do we say? Felons shouldn't go?"
But for at least one person, the Dhaliwals' problems don't really matter anymore: Sousa's mother, Marilza Sousa, last spoke to the pair before her son's funeral.
These days, Sousa has been too busy thinking about her son's upcoming birthday in September, when he would have turned 18.
Already, she's dreading the holidays.
"For us, it's not Christmas anymore."