A South Dakota newspaper that failed to report on the case of a Somali man convicted of trying to molest a severely handicapped woman, changed gears Wednesday after being outed by WND and decided to publish a story about the crime.
The story ran on page three of the Aberdeen American News under the headline “Sentencing later this month for a man convicted of attempted sexual contact.”
But the newspaper left out an important detail.
The convicted sex criminal, 39-year-old Liban Mohamed, was a recently arrived refugee brought to the state from Somalia at the invitation of the U.S. government. He had been in the country only about a week and in Aberdeen only one day when he wandered up to a group home and tried to molest a 31-year-old mentally handicapped woman who was sitting outside the facility.
Mohamed, freshly arrived in the U.S. just days prior, wandered more than a mile from his hotel on foot and preyed upon a mentally handicapped woman at the Aspire Inc. residential care facility, which houses about 150 handicapped people. His victim was left unattended for only minutes. When a caregiver returned, she caught him with his hand between the disabled woman’s legs, reaching toward her private parts.
AAN’s belated story also neglected to mention that Mohamed had been brought to Aberdeen to work in the local meatpacking plant, DemKota Ranch, which has become a magnet for cheap refugee labor.
WND contacted AAN Executive Editor J.J. Perry and asked why he omitted the information about Mohamed being a refugee.
“Because I don’t know that it was a fact he was a refugee. We weren’t there [at the trial],” Perry said, after which he was reminded that the state’s attorney, Christopher White, confirmed for WND that Mohamed was a refugee and that this information was offered by Mohamed’s own defense attorney at trial. It was part of the court record in the defense attorney’s opening statement.
Perry indicated to WND the previous day that his paper’s failure to report the story initially was not intentional.
WND’s calls to Aberdeen Police Chief David McNeil were not returned Wednesday seeking comment on whether his agency covered up the crime when it happened on July 30, 2016. Mohamed was indicted Aug. 15 and went to trial on Dec. 20 just a few days before Christmas.
Neither McNeil’s department nor the local sheriff’s office has provided a mugshot of the convicted sex offender. South Dakota is one of the few states where mugshots of convicted criminals are not considered public record.
Lutheran Social Services South Dakota, a federal contractor, is responsible for resettling most of the refugees sent to the state but has not addressed how it could leave a man from Somalia, in the country for only a week, on his own to wander the streets looking for a vulnerable female.
Pat Powers, who blogs at South Dakota War College, said the WND story went viral in South Dakota Tuesday night and Wednesday.
“If you’re on Facebook in South Dakota, you’ve likely seen the post from on-line news website World Net Daily come across your newsfeed which is featuring an article coming out of Aberdeen, South Dakota, about a Somalian refugee who was convicted of molesting a disabled person with limited communication abilities,” Powers wrote.
He then laid more blame at the feet of the local paper for first missing the story, then reporting it belatedly without all the pertinent facts.
“But one point in the belated coverage seems to be missing, one that particularly goes to the heart of the issue that World Net Daily is offering as their main critique of the Aberdeen American – There is utterly no reference in the story that the person who molested the disabled woman was a Somalian refugee who had been in the country for a week.”
WND noted in its story that “residents are wondering how many other crimes by refugees may have been shielded from public view in Aberdeen and Huron.”
Powers said this is a legitimate question for South Dakotans.
“With the only mention of the attempted molestation of a disabled woman by the refugee, newly placed in the community, coming hours after an article critical of their non-coverage of the crime, it’s hard to categorize the WND outrage as just more fake news on Facebook,” Powers wrote.
“The fact that the Aberdeen American News still omitted facts of the story after being publicly excoriated for it only gives credence to accusations that news coverage of crimes being committed by refugees in the community are possibly being shielded from public view.”
‘If this had been a crime against a Muslim …’
Commenters on Facebook and on Powers’ blog were upset.
“If this had been a crime against a Muslim, it would have been all over the front page locally and nationally and cited as a hate crime,” posted one commenter on the blog.
Somali refugees arrive in the U.S. at a rate of more than 800 a month, filing into more than 300 cities and towns. They are currently arriving at a rate even faster than Syrian refugees. More than 132,000 Somalis have come to the U.S. as refugees since the 1980s, but most of them have arrived since 1991, when the country’s civil war broke out.
Mohamed entered on a visa and is not a U.S. citizen. He is scheduled to be sentenced at 4:30 p.m. on Jan. 30. He faces a maximum of five years in prison for the crime of attempting sexual contact with a person incapable of giving consent. He told the caregiver who caught him in the act that he was in love with his victim.
Citizens group approached AG in October with concerns about refugees
Meanwhile, a citizens group tells WND they met with South Dakota Attorney General Marty Jackley on Oct. 3 at the state Capitol in Pierre to discuss their concerns about refugee resettlement and its impact on safety.
The meeting was affable with the approximately 10 citizens sharing concerns about refugees who might put the safety of their communities at risk.
The meeting included residents from Rapid City who were looking for him to do something to stop the secondary migration of refugees to their town.
“A Huron girl there was almost in tears she was so fearful of what could happen” if an unvetted or unvettable refugee were to slip through the cracks, one resident who was present at the meeting told WND.
But Jackley quickly turned the tables, asking pointed questions of the concerned citizens.
“If you guys know of anything, can cite anything [negative] that’s happening in your communities, then please tell me,” he reportedly said.
“He wouldn’t give the concerned people the answers they were looking for,” said one person present at the meeting. “I watched him and was thinking what are you doing? It was more like dodge ball and ‘what do you know?'”
He told the group refugee resettlement was a federal issue and “his hands were tied,” one participant of the meeting said. “What’s upsetting is, he already knew, he would have known that this crime had happened in Aberdeen.
“We were duped. Looking back, I really think we were afforded the meeting with him only because he was trying to figure out if we knew,” the activist said.
“What made me upset when I read the WND article on Aberdeen is that on Oct. 3 we had an opportunity for our attorney general to say something to these people, to tell them the truth, ‘You know you may be right, some could slip through the cracks and commit heinous crimes.’
“Lutheran Social Services takes this federal money but aren’t always doing their job,” the activist continued. “But instead Marty Jackley said, ‘Oh, we can’t do anything, our hands are tied.’ We now know there had been something heinous that had already happened in Aberdeen.”
Jackley has expressed interest in running for governor of South Dakota in 2018.