Monday, November 26, 2012
By Scott Dolan
In a hearing on a motion seeking to try Mohammed Mukhtar as an adult, the victim identified the refugee’s interpreter as her attacker rather than the man accused of the crime.
PORTLAND — A case that has already seen many legal curves since prosecutors first charged a Somali refugee with raping a woman in her Portland home in May took another sharp turn on Monday.
In a court hearing on a prosecutors' motion seeking to try Mohammed Mukhtar as an adult, the victim identified the refugee’s interpreter as her attacker rather than the man accused of the crime.
When Assistant District Attorney Christine Thibeault asked the victim to indentify her attacker for the court, the victim pointed to the interpreter, describing him as wearing a gray suit. Mukhtar, seated beside his interpreter, wore a short-sleeved plaid shirt. Both men are black.
“He’s the gentleman right over there,” the victim said, identifying the interpreter.
The courtroom fell silent for a moment until Thibeault asked Judge Richard Mulhern for the court to grant a brief recess.
The victim later returned after the recess and was invited to walk through the courtroom closer to the defense table. Upon retaking the stand, she then identified Mukhtar as her attacker rather than the interpreter.
The judge, scheduled to hear more testimony Monday afternoon, will decide from the hearing whether there is probable cause to try Mukhtar as an adult.
When Mukhtar was first charged with breaking into the woman’s High Street apartment and raping her in May, he was charged as an adult.
His attorney, Jonathan Berry, later argued successfully that Mukhtar was born on Oct. 25, 1994, and therefore was a 17-year-old juvenile at the time of the alleged rape.
Berry had said at a prior court hearing that Mukhtar had been arbitrarily assigned a birthday of record, Jan. 1, 1994, when he came to the country as a refugee from Somalia.
At the time of Berry’s successful argument, Mukhtar had already pleaded guilty in adult court to a misdemeanor crack cocaine charge. When the court ruled in July that Mukhtar should be considered a juvenile, the adult court went back and dismissed that conviction, Berry said.
Prosecutors subsequently renewed the case, and charged Muktar this time in juvenile court, with gross sexual assault and a felony drug possession charge in place of the previous misdemeanor drug charge.
With Monday’s hearing, prosecutors were again trying to lift the charges against Mukhtar to the adult court.