Monday, September 15, 2008

Young false accuser destroys do-gooder's life

Another teenage accuser has destroyed the life of the accused with a lie. It was all very easy. And all he was trying to do was come to her aid.

The price the accused paid was especially high because he's lost his livelihood and can't even afford to get his car out of the police impound lot.

Can you imagine -- they charge for impounding the car of a man they wrongly arrest?

And Sarah Palin is under attack for charging women who claim they were raped the cost of the rape kit. I don't hear too many people having a similar hissy fit over the charges innocent men routinely bear just to clear, to the extent they can, their good names.

HERE IS THE STORY

He stopped to help her. She cried abduction.

Months later, charges are dropped, but man loses job, good name
mailto:egurnon@pioneerpress.com?subject=TwinCities.com:
Article Last Updated: 08/05/2008 12:12:03 AM CDT

The young girl was bleeding and upset, trying to flag down a passing car. So the driver stopped.

Ali Sid Abdilahi wanted to help the girl, he later told his lawyer, so he offered to drive her to the hospital. She declined, explaining that her boyfriend had beaten her up, and she was afraid she'd get in trouble with her mother.

He dropped her off with a little money, then drove away.

Two days later, on April 3, Abdilahi's attempt at kindness was rewarded with criminal charges: kidnapping and false imprisonment. The 14-year-old girl had gone to police and claimed that Abdilahi and another man had tried to drag her into their car near her Dayton's Bluff home while she heroically fought them off.

Now, after four hellish months for Abdilahi and his family, the Ramsey County attorney's office has quietly dropped charges against him.

"It's a case that should have never gone this far," said his attorney, Paul Edlund.

The charges against the 31-year-old St. Paul man were dismissed July 25 after investigators determined "there were some credibility issues with the victim," said Phil Carruthers, head of the criminal division of the county attorney's office.

It's not the first time the girl, who was not identified in court papers, has involved police and prosecutors with a story that later was called into question.

Three weeks before the April 1 report, she called police to say two men were trying to rape her, Edlund said. When police went to the location she had given them, no one was there. They determined she had made a prank call from her school, according to Edlund.

Carruthers said he did not have details of that incident but acknowledged the girl pleaded guilty in juvenile court to making a false police report, a misdemeanor.

THE TALE

The girl, whom police did not name, initially wove a dramatic story of her bravery amid a terrifying threat.

Police said she described it this way:

The eighth-grader on spring break said she was walking home about 11 a.m. from a store in her Dayton's Bluff neighborhood April 1 when a car pulled up next to her. The passenger supposedly said, "Little girl, come here," and the man tried to drag the girl into the vehicle. Abdilahi, who the girl said was driving, stayed inside.

She went on to say she resisted the passenger's attempts to pull her into the car, but it drove on as she held onto the side mirror and was dragged along the pavement. She had the injuries and ripped clothes to prove it, police said.

She also had a partial license plate and a description of Abdilahi, including one particularly telling detail: He was wearing tennis shoes with a blue stripe, she told police.

Police said the girl was upset and crying, and that she said she thought the men were going to rape her.

Based on the license plate and an ID the girl made from a photo lineup, Abdilahi was picked up and charged two days later with kidnapping and false imprisonment. He was jailed on $75,000 bail, and his mug shot was splashed in newspapers and on TV.

Meanwhile, the girl was praised for her bravery and smarts. Her mother wondered aloud why no one had responded to her cries for help.

'CONSISTENCY ISSUES'

Edlund, the defense attorney, said he was skeptical from the beginning and tried to convey that to prosecutors.

The case had several problems, he said.

For one, the girl's claim she could see his client's shoes just didn't make sense, Edlund said.

He and his investigator took Abdilahi to the impound lot where police were holding his car. They wanted to know how much someone could see him and his shoes as he sat in the driver's seat. The car was an older model with a full console between the driver's and passenger's seats, he said.

"She certainly could hang onto a mirror," he said, "but you cannot see anyone's shoes from outside the vehicle."

Edlund said he also had a security video from a gas station that shows Abdilahi shortly before he encountered the girl. He's dressed in the same clothes, same shoes — but there is no second man, Edlund said.

"There just wasn't a second person," he said.

Carruthers, of the county attorney's office, said the victim decided she no longer wanted to go forward with the case and was unwilling to meet with the prosecutor.

"Also, we could not verify the manner in which the incident occurred," he said.

Asked to elaborate, he said, "it was difficult for the victim to demonstrate some of the details of it," and there were "consistency issues" with her account.

In addition, Abdilahi never admitted guilt to the police, he said, and the defense gave an explanation that contradicted the victim's account.

She did not recant her story, however, Carruthers said.

The address where the girl lived with her mother is now registered as a vacant building, and the phone number has been disconnected. Carruthers said a prosecutor last met with them in a hotel.

As to the fact that the girl was being investigated on the charge of making a false police report while the Abdilahi case was progressing, Carruthers said he presumed the prosecutor was not aware of that.

The girl pleaded guilty to the false police report May 14, Carruthers said. Charges against Abdilahi were dropped July 25.

Abdilahi could not be reached for comment.

THE COST

The ordeal has come at a tremendous cost to Abdilahi, his wife and their two young children, his attorney said.

There's the financial toll. Abdilahi was about to start a training program for over-the-road truckers, but he was let go after charges were laid against him, Edlund said. He has not found work since.

There was bail money to pay — with the help of his extended family.

But they didn't have enough to get his car out of the police impound lot, which would have cost $1,000 in tow fees and storage once the investigation was complete, Edlund said.

"The car wasn't worth much more than that ... but he doesn't have a car anymore."

Even more hurtful was to have to live with the accusation itself, Edlund said.

"He had to carry that around the last four months," he said. "We talk about the presumption of innocence, but that's not the reality of what happens" with public opinion.

When Edlund gave him the news — he was on the bus at the time — Abdilahi was "elated," the attorney said.

But the experience has taught him a sad lesson.

"He said, 'Paul, I'm not going to stop and try to help somebody ever again,' " Edlund said.

Emily Gurnon can be reached at 651-228-5522.
Link: http://www.twincities.com/ci_10097568?source=most_viewed