Former TikTok star takes the stand in his own defense

SAN DIEGO (FOX 5/KUSI) — Ali Abulaban took the stand on Tuesday. The former TikTok star, who went by the username of Jinnkid, was on the witness stand testifying in his own defense.

When he was sworn in and approached the witness stand, the courtroom was packed, yet silent, you could hear a pin drop. During the day, some people were forced to sit in the hallway for overflow, it hasn’t been that packed at any point in the trial so far.

The defense attorney, Jodi Green, started by going chronologically through Ali Abulaban’s life, detailing his abusive childhood, how he and Ana met, his time in the military, their “perfect life” in Virginia and how things unraveled when they moved to San Diego.

Ali admitted to heavy and constant cocaine usage after living in San Diego.

The defense told their side of the stories and fights that the prosecution had discussed in the days prior. Ali admitted to being violent with Ana after moving to San Diego. The defense painted this back-and-forth toxic marriage in the months leading up to her death.

Ali discusses his childhood

He first discussed his emotionally, physically and verbally abuse childhood at the hands of his father. He discussed that being the oldest child in a Middle Eastern household, there was a lot expected out of him, but he said he could never live up to his father’s demands. He said he was afraid of his father before he could understand what it meant.

“Everything was an overreaction, violent, explosive,” he recalled that he would hold his younger siblings on the couch, as his parents would fight and chase each other around the house.

“I would have my little sister in one arm, my brother on the other arm, and we would just cry seeing them,” Ali Abulaban testified.

He said that his father started physically abusing him as a young teenager and he would often be hit with items including vaccumm cables, shoes. He said around 14 years old, he was left with welts after his father beat him. He said he lied to a teacher at school who asked what had happened.

He said as a kid, before social media, him and his siblings would make funny videos using a video camera, and Ali was often the class clown, but said he never knew when to stop and would sometimes get “beat up,” or get into trouble. He said when other people would laugh, it helped him “feel of some value.”

He said he was diagnosed with ADHD as a teenager, and took medication for it. He said he felt like the medication was a “miracle,” and immediately noticed the positive effects of the medication, but become dependent on it, and said it caused him to not talk, and was like “a statue,” so his father threw out his medications.

He said growing up he was insecure and had social insecurities.

After high school, his father forced him to go to a community college, and would often get into physical altercations with his dad, where his dad would often kick him out, and then have him move back in.

Ali ended up joining the military at 21 years old and was stationed in San Antonio for basic training.

After basic training, Ali said he initially wanted to go into intel, but was told the waiting period would be one year, and he said he didn’t want to go back home and wait, so he found something that he could get into right away – that was a military police officer. After completing the tech school and getting his badge, he was stationed at Kadena Airbase in Okinawa, Japan.

“I was proud to be in the military, I am still proud of my service,” Ali added.

He said he was one of the only Arab-Americans in his military circle, and said he was often harassed for his race.

But he said once he was ‘on the job,’ he had a lot of social anxiety, started to shut down and said he started drinking heavily because it helped him sleep better, he didn’t have anything else to do and was often alone, until he later met Ana Abulaban.

He recalled the first time he saw Ana — and during his time at the base, he met Shawn Torres, and saw Shawn getting out of a car, with Ana and another woman inside. He said seeing Ana for the first time “affected” him.

Ali said he was at a bar in Okinawa, when Torres and a group of people walked into the same bar, Ana was also there, and Ana and Ali ended up dancing together.

Ali said as a gate guard, he was responsible for checking people IDs, and Ana and a friend went through his gate. He recalled that her military identification card was expired, and asked them to pull over, where he wrote his phone number on a ticket and gave it to her.

Later, Ana and Ali began to talk over the phone/Skype for two months until having their first date.

“I consider Ana to be my first real relationship,” Ali testified. The two were married for five years and together seven years before her death.

Ali said he and Ana began seeing each other, and he did not know that Ana and Shawn Torres were married. He recalled that Ana told him, “He got kicked out of the military…” went back to the United States and was supposed to get her a VISA, but went back to his ex-girlfriend.

He said at the time, she had a social lifestyle with partying, drugs, etc. and he was not used to that.

He admitted to sometimes controlling Ana, by telling her to leave the bar when it was getting late.

He denied ever abusing her during their time in Japan.

Ali discharged from the military

In August of 2015, Ali testified that Ana had a part-time job at Chaos, a local bar outside the base. He said during the bar’s foam party, he had been drinking, was spinning and drunk and laid his head down on the table, when the owner of the bar kicked him out. Ana and another friend were helping him out of the bar when Ali slipped, from his wet shoes from the foam party, on the slick ground, and took Ana down with him. People nearby thought Ali was abusing Ana, and a large fight with up to seven men started beating on Ali, according to him. Ali said at the time he was drunk, and the altercation kept getting worse when someone started recording the fight, and Ana got involved, but was punched by another man, and the fight grew worse.

Ali was formally discharged in October 2015, he said it was not a dishonorable discharge, but was not an honorable discharge, he said it was a “gray area.”

Ali and Ana are pregnant

Ali and Ana found out in October she was pregnant. Ali said Ana offered to get an abortion, but Ali said no, that’s not what he wanted, and this is what they had been dreaming about together anyway.

Ali said Ana was in Japan on a tourist’s VISA because her stepdad was a contractor in the Navy. After October, when Ali was no longer in the military, Ali and Ana briefly moved to the Philippines and stayed with Ana’s family until Ana was a few months pregnant.

Ali said while they were in the Philippines, there were no instances of violence, he did not do drugs, but was drinking alcohol.

Ali finds out Ana is married

Around this same time – almost 2016 – Ana told Ali that she was married to Shawn Torres.

“I was hurt because there had been a habit of every time we were getting comfortable… there was always some obstacle, dark secret popping up,” he testified. “I knew I wanted to be with her, I knew I loved her, but with certain things kept popping up it was affecting my ability to trust her in a sense.”

Ali returned to Virginia to make money for the VISA process. Ali worked several jobs and lived with his parents and Ali said his dad was supportive. When Ana’s water broke, Ali got on a plane and was there for the birth in the Philippines. He said it took about nine months for the VISA approval.

After the approval, Ali, Ana and their daughter lived in his parents home in Virginia together. Ali said it was great, but things started “to get heavy,” between Ali and his dad. Soon after, Ali and Ana bought a townhome together nearby.

Ali got a job in the IT department and Ana got a job with the same company, he said the “stars aligned.”

Ali becomes Jinnkid

Ali said during this time, he began making videos of his impersonations and Ana was very supportive. He said Ana would film it, set up lighting and do his makeup if he needed it for a skit.

He testified that around this same time frame, the social media content creation community was growing and he started collaborating with other people – including a famous jeweler in Times Square, which Ana and Ali went to together.

He said he would sometimes put her in his videos, but it “wasn’t her thing,” but she liked to support.

In 2019, he branched into TikTok, and said one of his first videos he posted on there was an “instant overnight success,” with 17 million views.

He said at this time, he was starting to become really popular.

Ali testified that he saw a message on Ana’s phone pop-up from Instagram that read, “Hey Beautiful,” from a Netflix TV actor on a show they used to watch together. Ali said he got mad and accused her of sending nudes to this person. Later, Ali found several women who sent him nudes in his message requests on Instagram, and saved some of the photos on a fake app on his phone and Ana found out when she allegedly looked through his phone while he was sleeping, and he testified that he woke up to her punching him three times, and he grabbed her wrist and said he took her down to the ground and she left the house.

He said this created trust issues, and to alleviate that, they had access to each other’s Instagram accounts.

During the time his fame was rising, Ali said people online knew his address and he received a threat about his daughter. He said he went out and legally purchased a gun and had a conceal and carry weapons permit.

Ana’s trip to San Diego

Ana went on a trip to San Diego by herself to spend time with friends.

“I stayed back to focus on my brand,” Ali said. He testified that when Ana returned, she was adamant that they needed to move there.

Ana and Ali then went to San Diego to visit it together. He said on their first trip they met up with friends, ended up partying every night and doing drugs. Ali said he used cocaine, Special K (Ketamine) – for the first time.

He said the first few times of using cocaine, he liked the effects, he claims that he felt “anxiety-free, confident, I’ll talk to anybody, not scared to talk to anybody.”

During their first trip to San Diego together, he met Rayburn Barron, and said he immediately noticed Ana, and made comments to Ali about Ana.

In August 2020, Ana and Ali took another trip to San Diego to see if they wanted to make the move. He said they also hung out with Ray at a joint birthday party for Ana, and Ali said Ray asked Ali if Ana had a sister, and said to not mess it up with her, or “you might lose her,” according to Ali.

Ali claims he tried to befriend Ray, grabbed him a beer, gave him a Juul but claims Ray wasn’t interested in being his friend.

Ali said it was difficult to move their daughter away from his family since they were close.

Around the time, they were discussing making the move. Ali’s brother Sammie was struggling from a mental health break, which ended up with him in jail.

Ali said his family didn’t think it was a good time for them to go as his brother was going through this mental health issue.

Ali and Ana move to San Diego

“Take me to San Diego or I’m divorcing you,” Ali recalled Ana saying. He said he was caught in the middle of wanting to make his wife happy, being there for his family and going against his father’s wishes.

He said they ended up moving to San Diego, and Ali got a job quickly as a civilian contractor as network engineer position on Naval Air Station North Island in Coronado.

“We were a close knit unit family, we were very strong,” Ali recalled about their relationship when they moved to San Diego.

Partying and drug use

Ali testified that between February- June 2021 in San Diego, the partying became more frequent and they went from using cocaine on the weekends, to more frequent usage. He said he initially liked the way cocaine made him feel, but after reaching a certain threshold, he didn’t like the way it made him feel and created paranoia.

“The scary part about it is once you reach this threshold, you’re not aware that you are in this state,” he said. “A non-stop thing… it would roll over until like six in the morning for me.”

Ali said he couldn’t sleep or eat normally and it started to impact his ability to work. He took a short-term disability leave from work, but didn’t let his HR department know it was due to his cocaine use because he didn’t want to lose his Top Secret Security Clearance.

Ali said around this same time, his brother was having a manic episode, his grandmother died and his parents were getting a divorce, and there was a lot going on in his life.

Ali’s parents divorce

Ali said his mom was leaving his dad and was briefly staying at their apartment in San Diego. His dad found out that his mom was at his apartment, bought the next flight and got into a fight. Ali said he got in the middle of the fight.

“Everything in my family was falling apart,” Ali said it affected his mental health, Ana was stressed and it was affecting his daughter. He said around this time, he was taking cocaine to cope, “there was no fun about it, it was a necessity.”

Ali said after the incident with his family, he saw Ana’s demeanor change – he said sex was a big part of their relationship, and he noticed that started to disappear and her demeanor started to change.

He said their relationship quickly turned into petty fights and back and forth low blows between each other.

He said at one time while he was on cocaine and they were fighting, “I snapped, I rolled on top of Ana and I began punching her, in her face, three times,” he said. “I was just very impulsive”.

He said Ana had every reason to put him in jail because of what he did. She did not call the police during this incident and did not get a restraining order.

After, he said he told his dad what he did and his dad recommended he go to Virginia for a week or so to undergo Neurofeedback therapy and psychological analysis of his brain to balance the chemicals in his brain. He said it helps with anxiety, depression, ADHD and bipolar disorders.

Ali said Ana downplayed that he was trying to get help. Ali said he brought back the machine to San Diego, but ultimately didn’t finish the sessions at home and resorted back to using cocaine.

“You’re like your brother, you have a mental illness,” Ali said Ana would tell him.

Ali said there were ongoing conversations with Ana and her friend group about how often her friends cheated on their husbands and it made Ali feel uncomfortable and question if Ana was doing that too.

“We were getting worse the way we were talking to each other,” Ali testified, specifically referencing a fight on Sept. 8, 2021, where the two of them had done cocaine and Ana ended up calling police after an altercation.

“I started recording my interactions with her .. to have integrity in what actually took place, what she said versus what I said…” Ali said.

In a video shown in court of the two of them fighting, Ana said she didn’t want “your kid,” and said “you can have full custody of her,” with their daughter in the background of the video.

That day, Ali and Ana were fighting about going to a party, where Ana allegedly said Ali wasn’t invited, and Ana took their daughter to a party. Ali said he called police to do a welfare check on their daughter at the hotel the party was located at.

Ali said around this time, the hurtful back and forth, fighting and Ana blocking him on the phone continued.

“I never thought this would end up in any sort of break up,” Ali added.

The defense focused on Sept. 21, 2021, exactly one month before the shooting.

Text messages were shown in court, where Ali had asked to borrow a suitcase because he was supposed to go to Miami to meet one of the actors from Scarface. Ana offered to take him to the airport, he said the offer made him happy.

On Sept. 21, 2021, the two were living separately, but Ana and Ali ended up meeting up, crying together and talking about their relationship and ended up being together that night.

Ali said he thought things were going to get back on track.

Ali’s testimony continues

Ali’s testimony is scheduled to continue Wednesday morning.

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