Portland Daily Sun
Thursday, October 25, 2012
by Marge Niblock
Abdi Awad was sentenced Wednesday to 18 years in prison, so the assailant in a Somali club stabbing in Portland may not walk the streets again until he is 45 years old.
A little more than two weeks after his 27th birthday, Awad came before Judge Roland A. Cole in his yellow jail jumpsuit to be sentenced for two crimes: elevated aggravated assault and assault on a corrections officer. The sentence was 25 years in prison, with seven years suspended.
In March of 2011, a security officer was in the process of breaking up a fight when he was knocked to the ground and stabbed twice in the back by Awad, court records revealed. The occasion was a private chem-free Somali dance party at a club at 1192 Forest Ave.
Police recovered the weapon used, and during the period of time police were interviewing witnesses and conducting their investigation, Awad fled the city, prosecutors said. He was returned to Portland in the custody of the U.S. Marshal Service after being arrested on Aug. 22, 2011, in Sierra Blanca, Texas, about 80 miles from Juarez, Mexico.
The jury that heard his case last January returned a guilty verdict after deliberating for only 55 minutes, convicting Awad of elevated aggravated assault.
Awad has had numerous police contacts in Portland for charges ranging from robbery, assault, aggravated assault, terrorizing, disorderly conduct, refusing to submit to arrest, and reckless conduct with a dangerous weapon.
In May of 2011 Awad was arrested in Rumford, when he threw away a gun while fleeing from police and the gun discharged. Awad’s Rumford sojourn occurred after the stabbing in Portland, but before detectives had been able to issue a warrant for him.
There was an altercation at the Cumberland County Jail on March 27, 2012, a few months after Awad was found guilty. At that time he jumped on the back of a corrections officer who was struggling with another inmate who refused to return to his cell. The prisoners were in the pod, but not in their cells, and when told to return to their cells a couple of them refused to do so. Awad was charged with assault on a corrections officer, which is a felony offense.
Deputy District Attorney Meg Elam showed a video of this incident to make Judge Cole aware of the type of behavior Awad exhibited after his trial and while he was in custody. Elam portrayed the jail incident as having great potential for disruption and injury, and suggested a year’s time for a sentence. Defense attorney JP DeGrinney felt since there was no bruising and no punches thrown, that a three-month sentence would be reasonable.
Judge Cole meted out a sentence of nine months for the offense. He said, “Things can get out of hand very quickly” in that type of jail situation, noting that Awad did take responsibility for his actions in that matter.
Elam said that Awad’s criminal history is “replete with episodes of violence, threats, coercion, and intimidation.”
Two of Awad’s relatives — an uncle and a cousin — were permitted to speak on his behalf. They spoke of the man as being “gentle” and “polite.”
Elam hurled those terms back at the defense, saying, “I don’t doubt that he’s polite with his family. But he is far from a polite person. He is far from a gentle person.” She then gave numerous quotes from police reports where he used profanity directed at officers trying to serve him with criminal trespass papers at the library and other places, calling one officer a “f-----g racist pig.” “He is a punk; a thug; an intimidator; a danger to the community,” Elam said. “He tried to keep victims and witnesses from testifying.”
Elam read from transcripts of jail telephone calls made by Awad, one of them including the chilling line, “Everything must be done to make sure these informers don’t come forward.” She praised Portland Police Det. Brian Letarte’s work on the case. Letarte worked very closely with the witnesses, who were very fearful. Letarte said, “The credit goes to the two witnesses.” The detective stated that he had written statements from some witnesses who then disappeared because they were too afraid to testify in the case.
Elam said Awad was attempting to intimidate people before trial and after people testified.
“He thought they wouldn’t testify. They are heroes. And those people also came from Somalia,” she said.
DeGrinney called Awad “a serious bail violator with no felony convictions.” He also referred to the immigration implications, saying, “Federal authorities may try to deport him. That should be on the court’s mind.”
Elam stated, “Did he have an epiphany? No. He doesn’t care. There’s no reason to think he won’t be a danger to society.”
Judge Cole said, “Mr. Awad made some very bad decisions and there are consequences to that. His impulse control is very poor.” The judge also said that either one of the stab wounds could have been mortal. He stated, “In the criminal history there’s a serious escalation of his conduct. He shows no remorse and refuses to take responsibility.” He mentioned the fact of his age being a mitigating factor, but said that “the aggravation factors outweigh the mitigating factors.”