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Peter Zahra: District Court judge handling Guy Sebastian case dies of suspected stroke


The highly respected judge who presided over the embezzlement trial of the Australian Idol winner’s longtime manager Guy Sebastian has died after suffering a stroke.

The case against Titus Day began before Judge Peter Zahra and a jury in Downing Center District Court last Tuesday.

Judge Zahra was rushed from his home in central west Sydney to the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Camperdown on Thursday morning and put on life support.

His family and friends maintained a vigil at the hospital over the weekend. On Monday morning, Judge James Bennett told the jury that his colleague had died on Sunday.

“We won’t have a lot of work today,” Judge Bennett said. “If you don’t already know, Judge Zahra passed away yesterday.”

Guy Sebastian (pictured with wife Jules) gave evidence against his former manager Titus last week Day is accused of embezzling nearly $1 million from his star client over seven years

You could hear the jurors react in shock. “He was a very good friend, I would say, and everyone here is feeling the loss as you can imagine,” Judge Bennett said.

A juror told Judge Zahra: ‘Condolences to you and everyone, all the family and friends.’

Statement from the family of Judge Peter Zahra

“Our husband and father, Judge Peter Raymond Zahra, passed away peacefully on Sunday, May 8, 2022 surrounded by his family.

Dad was a special soul and touched the lives of everyone he met. We received many lovely messages and memories that demonstrate the type of person he was, he had a big heart and wanted to see everyone achieve more than they thought possible.

In honor of our dad and his life, we encourage everyone to grab a hot chocolate and share a dad joke in his honor. Those who knew him would know he loved a good (bad) joke!

We ask that you please respect our privacy at this time and provide us with the space to celebrate the life of a man who will create a void that is hard to fill.

Sebastian, who had begun giving evidence against his former agent, tested positive for Covid-19 on Thursday and postponed national tour dates as he self-isolates.

The trial will resume before a new judge next Monday.

Judge Zahra’s family released a statement confirming that he “spent peacefully” on Sunday surrounded by his loved ones.

“Dad was a special soul and touched the lives of everyone he met,” the statement read.

“We received many lovely messages and memories that demonstrate the type of person he was, he had a big heart and wanted to see everyone achieve more than he ever thought possible.

“In honor of our dad and his life, we encourage everyone to grab a hot chocolate and share a dad joke in his honor. Those who knew him would know he loved a good (bad) joke !

Judge Zahra was considered one of NSW’s most respected magistrates and was described by legal sources as “intelligent, fair and just”.

He appeared in many major murder and drug trials as an attorney and established “battered woman syndrome” as a defense for murder.

As a lawyer, he also extended the defense of mental illness. He wrote a number of important legal texts.

Peter Raymond Zahra SC was appointed as the state’s lead public defender in 2001 and appointed to the bench of the NSW District Court in 2007.

As a judge, he imprisoned the former Hey Day! actor Robert Hughes for child sex offenses and disgraced former Auburn deputy mayor Salim Mehajer for lying in court.

Judge Zahra explained in a 2010 interview how he felt uncomfortable with the formal greeting he faced at the start of each day in the courtroom.

Peter Zahra: District Court judge handling Guy Sebastian case dies of suspected stroke

NSW District Court Judge Paul Zahra suffered a stroke last Thursday and was taken to the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital. He has been described by legal sources as ‘smart, fair and just’

“I don’t know how you would face someone, when you walk into the room saying ‘Quiet, stand up,'” Judge Zahra told the Sydney Morning Herald.

“It’s a strange concept for a human being…I find it really disturbing.”

Sebastian gave approximately three hours of testimony to the jury on Wednesday.

Day is accused of embezzling nearly $900,000 from his former client over seven years, which the famed manager has forcefully denied.

The 49-year-old pleaded not guilty to 50 counts of embezzlement as a clerk or servant and another 50 counts of theft.

The amounts of money Day allegedly embezzled ranged from $361.34 in royalties to $187,524 in performance fees. One charge relates to a $21,000 ambassadorship.

Sebastian had started testifying about his earnings during his time with Day, which included $494,360 to support Taylor Swift on the four-city Australian leg of her 2013 world tour.

Peter Zahra: District Court judge handling Guy Sebastian case dies of suspected stroke

Titus Day (right) is the former longtime manager of singer Guy Sebastian (left). Day pleaded not guilty to 50 counts of embezzlement as a clerk or servant, and another 50 counts of theft

Peter Zahra: District Court judge handling Guy Sebastian case dies of suspected stroke

Guy Sebastian (pictured) tested positive for Covid hours after appearing in NSW District Court to give evidence against his former manager

The trial was scheduled to last five weeks and took place two years after Day was arrested when he was charged with embezzling money from Sebastian between 2013 and 2020.

The court heard Sebastian had no suspicions that Day embezzled money from him after the chart-topping singer ended their business relationship.

He reviewed financial records after that bitter split and reportedly uncovered “inconsistencies” that led him to file a lawsuit in Federal Court and then take it to the police.

Peter Zahra: District Court judge handling Guy Sebastian case dies of suspected stroke

Titus Day (pictured arriving in court) pleaded not guilty to 50 counts of embezzlement as a clerk or servant, and another 50 counts of theft

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