Liban Mohamed, a 39-year-old Somali refugee living in Aberdeen, South Dakota, was sentenced Monday to three years for attempting to sexually assault a severely mentally handicapped woman at a group home.
Speaking through an interpreter, Mohamed said he didn’t know English. Yet, he was seen communicating with his lawyer in English.
Judge Richard Sommers sentenced Mohamed to five years, with two years suspended for a total of three years and gave him credit for time served of 228 days. Mohamed is not a U.S. citizen, but he has been living in the United States on a green card.
The incident happened July 30, 2016, just three days after Mohamed had arrived in Aberdeen to work at the Demkota Ranch beef-processing plant. He’d been in the country for about three years at that point, having been first resettled in Idaho. He then moved to Missouri, Kansas and on to South Dakota.
It’s not the only case recently of a Somali refugee running afoul of the law in Aberdeen. Another man from Somalia, 24-year-old Abdirhman Noor, was charged with the attempted murder of two men on July 8, 2016, outside the Foxridge Apartments in Aberdeen. Noor jumped bail, failing to show up for a pretrial hearing in February. He has been missing ever since.
Still, the mayor of the small city, Mike Levsen, supports the continued arrival of refugees, many of whom are put to work in the local meatpacking plant and at a molded fiberglass plant.
The Liban Mohamed case was also notable for the way it was handled by the local media in and around Aberdeen. Despite the facts – that a helpless woman was preyed upon by a refugee who had arrived in town just days earlier – coverage by the local newspaper, the Aberdeen News American, and local TV was non-existent until WND brought it to light.
When it did finally report the story, the News American refused to tell its readers that the perpetrator, Mohamed, was a refugee and buried the story on page 3.
The Brown County Sheriff’s Office refused to give WND a mugshot of Mohamed.
Mohamed was staying at the White House Inn in Aberdeen and wandered on foot to the Aspire group home, more than a mile from the hotel. That’s where he saw his victim sitting outside the facility on a sunny summer day.
His only previous arrest was a DUI in Oregon in 2014, said Christopher White, the state’s attorney for Brown County, South Dakota.
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In a state-required psychosexual evaluation, a psychologist determined that Mohamed was neither being honest nor did he accept any responsibility for what he did.
“He believes that he’s innocent, that he didn’t do anything wrong,” White said. “He kept saying he never touched her.”
But a female caregiver at the group home testified that she saw Mohamed with his hand on the woman’s leg reaching up toward her private parts. That’s when she pulled back the woman’s chair to protect her from being touched inappropriately and called police.
Victim incapable of speaking
The victim, a 31-year-old woman, is incapable of speaking. She was put outside to sit in the sun while the caregiver went back inside the facility to get other patients. When the caregiver returned, she witnessed the attempted sexual assault in progress, according to court documents.
The defendant’s statements to police came out at his trial in December. He admitted he asked the woman to marry him and admitted to touching her, but he said he did not touch her leg or private parts. But it was only the alert action of a caregiver identified only as Roberta who helped prevent the sexual assault.
Two men testified in support of Mohamed at his sentencing hearing Monday, one identified as his cousin and the other as his friend. They said he was a kind and gentle person who would never commit such a crime.
The maximum sentence for the crime is five years.
“We the state argued for five years, and the defendant’s attorney argued for supervised probation,” White told WND.
With good behavior, Mohamed will be eligible for parole after serving 40 percent of his sentence.
His attorney, Jennifer Stoddard, argued that Mohamed came from a war-torn country and suffered emotional trauma.
“Not only did he not have the coping mechanisms for the emotional and physical trauma, but he was brought to another country without knowledge of its language, laws or customs,” said Stoddard, who, without knowing it, presented the perfect argument against refugee resettlement, said a watchdog over the resettlement industry.
“This is why resettlement results in tragedies like what we saw in Aberdeen,” said Ann Corcoran, author of the Refugee Resettlement Watch blog. “They do not know our language, laws or customs and that can be devastating for American citizens.”
Mohamed’s attorney made incorrect comments during the trial that her client had been in the U.S. only for about a week and in Aberdeen for one day when he committed the crime.
Mohamed allegedly claimed to authorities that if he had been in his country, nothing he did would have been considered wrong.
White said the woman cannot talk, although she is able to say her name and to let caregivers know when she’s hungry.
Aspire provides residential services to approximately 150 people with special needs, according to its website. It is located at 607 North Fourth St., Aberdeen.
One Aberdeen resident said the town was shocked to learn a refugee preyed upon a helpless woman sitting outside of a facility that is supposed to be safe.
“We’re a small town; nothing like that has happened,” the resident said, “at least not that anyone is aware of. It just doesn’t happen. And it was a short time. The caregiver, she just went in to get some more residents, and it happened quickly.”
South Dakota increasingly popular resettlement site
The U.S. State Department and its federal contractor, Lutheran Social Services, have sent just under 1,000 Somali refugees to South Dakota since 2002, all of them being placed in Sioux Falls. More than 99 percent of all Somali refugees are Muslim.
More than 132,000 Somali refugees have been sent to more than 300 U.S. cities and towns, most of them arriving since the civil war broke out in the East African country in 1991. More than 40 have been confirmed by the FBI to have left the country since 2007 to fight for foreign terrorist organizations, and dozens more have been convicted of providing material support for terrorist organizations.
As recently as Nov. 28, a Somali refugee went on a stabbing spree at Ohio State University, injuring 11. And on Sept. 17 another Somali refugee went on a stabbing spree at the Crossroads Mall in St. Cloud, Minnesota, injuring 10 before he was shot dead by an off-duty police officer.
The plans to expand refugee resettlement in Aberdeen have not been without critics. A Facebook group called Americans First Taskforce of Aberdeen, S.D., started last year and has 1,043 followers and 1,002 likes.
During Christmas week, the Facebook page was alight with comments from posters.
“So will he get sent back to Somalia?” asked Kelly Kimbler.
“Wonder why the public didn’t know about this,” said another post.
It is not the first time a sex crime by a refugee has been ignored or downplayed by local media. Last summer, a 5-year-old special-needs girl was sexually assaulted in Twin Falls, Idaho, by two refugee boys from Iraq, while an older boy from Sudan filmed the entire incident.
Corcoran, who blogs at Refugee Resettlement Watch, traveled last summer to dozens of meatpacking towns across the U.S. and found they are hot targets for government contractors looking to resettle refugees.
Small cities in the nation’s heartland – the Dakotas, Colorado, Iowa, Minnesota, Missouri, Tennessee and Kentucky – are all magnets for refugees from Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Burma, Democratic Republic of Congo and Syria because of the meatpacking companies’ unquenchable thirst for cheap foreign labor.
“In both Aberdeen and Huron, South Dakota, the residents told me the refugees were coming over from Minnesota to work in the meat plant,” Corcoran told WND.
While few refugees are sent directly to Aberdeen, they come as part of what is called a “secondary migration” from Sioux Falls, from several cities in Minnesota and elsewhere.
“Aberdeen is a big secondary migrant location,” Corcoran said. “The mayor wanted to set up a direct resettlement site in Aberdeen, but Lutheran Social Services of South Dakota backed off due to the uproar from citizens. The meat plant closed, then reopened and when they reopened [under new ownership], they wanted all these Somali laborers and some came over from Minnesota and some from Sioux Falls.”