Judge Peter Zahra dies after suffering a stroke, days into fraud trial of Guy Sebastian's ex-manager – ABC News


Judge Peter Zahra dies after suffering a stroke, days into fraud trial of Guy Sebastian's ex-manager
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Respected NSW District Court Judge Peter Zahra has died suddenly after suffering a stroke, just days after overseeing the start of the trial of Guy Sebastian's ex-manager.
Sebastian's former manager, Titus Day, is accused of embezzling $900,000 of the Australian Idol winner's money.
Several members of the jury audibly gasped, and one wiped tears away, as they were informed of the news by Judge James Bennett on Monday morning.
"Oh no, oh my goodness," one exclaimed.
A member of the jury offered her condolences to Judge Bennett on behalf of her colleagues.
"He's [Judge Zahra] a very good friend I might say and everyone here is feeling the loss as you might imagine," Judge Bennett said.
The trial has been adjourned until next week when it will be reallocated to another judge.
In a statement, Judge Zahra's family said he would be remembered as a "special soul" who "touched the lives of everyone he met".
"We have 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 what they ever thought possible," the statement said.
"In honour of our Dad and his life, we encourage everyone to have a hot chocolate and share a dad joke in his honour!"
Judge Zahra, who was aged 66 when he died, oversaw the trial of Hey Dad! star Robert Hughes, sentencing him for up to 10 years and nine months in prison for child sex offences.
Judge Zahra also sentenced disgraced former Auburn deputy mayor Salim Mehajer to three-and-a-half years behind bars for perverting the course of justice.
He joined the NSW Bar Association in 1988, and became a silk in 2000, previously serving as a crown prosecutor, public defender and senior public defender.
President of the NSW Bar Association Michael McHugh SC described him as an "esteemed judge" and "very good man".
"Judge Zahra's passing is a great loss to the administration of justice in NSW," he said.
Attorney-General Mark Speakman SC paid tribute to Judge Zahra as an "outstanding leader" during his time in the Public Defenders Chambers.
"During his 15 years on the District Court bench, Judge Zahra earned the deep respect of his judicial colleagues, those at the Bar who appeared before him and the profession more broadly," he said.
Veteran Sydney barrister Greg James SC told the ABC, Judge Zahra would be remembered as "an extremely good man, a very fair man, and a very very conscientious man".
Karly Warner, CEO of the Aboriginal Legal Service (NSW/ACT), said Judge Zahra was a "close friend" of the organisation.
"He was a mentor, friend and role model to many of our lawyers over the years," she said.
Sebastian was set to return to the stand last Thursday but his evidence had to be delayed after he tested positive for COVID-19.
In a social media post on Thursday afternoon, the 40-year-old singer said he was "absolutely gutted" by his positive test result and the impact it would have on his national tour, with shows in Cairns and Townsville this week having to be rescheduled.
Police allege Mr Day stole about $900,000 in royalties, ambassadorship and performance funds from Sebastian between 2013 and 2020.
Last week, Crown prosecutor David Morters SC told the court there were "shortfalls" in the amount of money transferred to Sebastian, including hundreds of thousands of dollars he never received for supporting US superstar Taylor Swift on her Australian tour in December 2013.
Mr Day, who managed the singer for a decade, has pleaded not guilty to 50 charges of fraudulent embezzling and 50 alternative charges of larceny or stealing.
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