A Somali refugee who raped two Utah women when he was 14, has been spared adult prison – despite pleas from one of his victims.
Mohammed Ali Mohammed, 20, has spent almost six years at a Salt Lake Valley juvenile detention center after pleading guilty rape, sexual assault and kidnapping charges in 2012, the Salt Lake Tribune reports.
He was due to age out of the juvenile system when he turns 21 next month, leaving Judge Vernice Trease with a choice; sentence him to serve time in an adult prison for his crimes, or release him on five year’s probation. She chose the latter.
The sentence comes as a bitter blow to his victims and prosecutors who sought to keep him behind bars.
One woman, who was attacked and raped in her own Salt Lake City home by Mohammed, who then forced her at knife point to take money out at the ATM, said she is ‘terrified’ at the thought her rapist will be free to walk the streets where she lives.
Breaking down in tears in court, she told the judge: ‘He did adult crimes and should have an adult sentence to match what he did.’
She says she still lives with the flashbacks and fear from that day and had asked for the strictest sentence for Mohammed.
His other victim, who he grabbed outside her home and raped her with a four-inch switchblade to her throat, was not in court but prosecutors said her life had fallen apart shortly after the assault.
Then a promising college student in 2011, prosecutor Coral Sanchez-Rose said she fell into drug use and got in trouble with the law after the assault.
‘We just lost track of her,’ Sanchez-Rose said. ‘I don’t know if she’s homeless, I don’t know where she’s staying at; we’re unable to contact her. Clearly, this has had a great impact in her life.’
But in 2012, when he was sentenced to juvenile detention, she told the court he was ‘getting away with less than he deserves.’
‘I want him in prison. … I want to have him feel what I felt.’
Mohammed moved to the US in 2010 with his family. Less than 12 months later he committed the first heinous rape.
On August 14, 2011, then then-14-year-old came up behind a woman, who was outside her home with her dog and put a knife to her throat, threatening it to cut it if she screamed. He then raped her behind her own house.
The next night, he broke into a second woman’s home, and went through her belongings before raping her, court documents show. He then forced her to go to an ATM and withdraw $400 which he later told prosecutors was for him to buy new clothes for the first day of ninth grade school.
It was the ATM camera that allowed police to track down and arrest the teen.
But on Monday, the Salt Lake City court heard how Mohammed had turned his life around during the past six years and was now repentant for his crimes.
‘I was a monster,’ he told Judge Trease, adding he did ‘very, very horrible things’ six years ago.
‘There is nothing that I could say or do that could restore what I did to them,’ he said. ‘The only way I can show them I’ve changed is how I live my life.’
Volunteers at Wasatch Youth Center also claimed he’d changed, and was a kind person and a leader to his unit.
The court also heard about Mohammed’s troubled childhood.
Born in a ‘lawless’ Somali refugee camp in Yemen, his brother was murdered before his eyes, his defense attorney Andrea Martinez-Griffin said.
He also witnessed his mother’s friend get raped and was himself, sexually abused, he added.
His mother, Zahra Mohammed, told the Salt Lake Tribune in 2012 she refused to believe the crimes he’d pleaded guilty to and even blamed his victims, saying her son was set up or taken advantage of by older women.
She claimed he’d pleaded guilty because he believed it would be easier for him in the long run.
On Monday, he was sentenced to five years of strict probation which includes wearing an ankle monitor bracelet, weekly check-ins with the court and his probation office, and more.
And he puts a toe out of line, he’ll be back in court and off to jail to serve a lengthy sentence.
‘I won’t let you down,’ Mohammed replied.