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Witness claims threats in refusal to testify
Friday, June 08, 2012
KRISTIN M. HALL
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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A Somali man who refused to testify against gang members in a sex trafficking trial in Nashville told a judge that he was assaulted and warned that gang members would get him if he snitched.
Abdullahi Farah was charged with criminal contempt for refusing to testify during a federal trial against nine defendants accused in a sex trafficking ring. Three people were convicted and six were acquitted by a jury in May.
Farah said on the stand Thursday that men wearing masks assaulted him twice and he was told that threats were made against him for cooperating with federal prosecutors in the case, which includes more than 30 defendants and spanned from Minnesota to Ohio and Tennessee.
The indictment alleged that Somali gangs in Minneapolis and Nashville were using young girls and women for prostitution.
U.S. District Court Chief Judge Todd Campbell found him guilty of criminal contempt and ordered sentencing to be set for July 3.
Farah, who has lived in Minnesota and Tennessee, said he started hearing people say that the gang members would get him for being a snitch in the months leading up to the trial.
"I knew what the gangs are capable of," he testified on Thursday. "I've seen it."
Assistant U.S. Attorney Van Vincent has said in court that his expected testimony would have been about the sex trafficking of one of the victims in the case, who is identified in court as Jane Doe. 2.
The victim testified in the trial that lasted more than two weeks that she was used a prostitute in the Minneapolis area starting at age 12.
Idris Ibrahim Fahra, Andrew Kayachith and Yassin Abdirahman Yusuf were found guilty of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of children by force, fraud or coercion. The three men were also charged with child sex trafficking and attempted child sex trafficking, while only Fahra was convicted on one additional count of child sex trafficking.
One of the victims, a woman identified in court as Jane Doe (hash)5, testified that other Somalis have called her a snitch and blamed her for the arrests. Three women in Minnesota are accused of attacking one of the witnesses who did testify in the trial and face charges of retaliation against a witness.
A federal immigration officer said that because of Farah's criminal history in Minnesota, he lost his permanent residency status in the United States and was in the process of being deported.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agent Tony Langeland testified that he never promised to help Farah get a green card in exchange for cooperating with the government. Farah has claimed in court that he didn't want to testify because he felt the government officials had lied to him.
Langeland also said that Farah did help prosecutors by listening to hours of recorded phone conversations related to the trial.
Langeland confirmed that no measures were taken to investigate the assaults Farah said occurred and no measures were taken to protect his family.
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