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Convicted Portland child molester gets 12 years despite victims being pressured to recant

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A 17-year-old Portland girl who summoned the courage last year to call 911 to report being sexually abused told a judge Friday she was angry her molester was convicted.

The girl repeated her testimony at trial: She had never been molested and had lied to investigators.

But the judge wasn’t buying it, having found two months ago that the girl was the product of intense pressure from family and others in her Somali American community not to speak out.

In an emotional hearing Friday, Multnomah County Circuit Judge Leslie Roberts sentenced the molester — 46-year-old Hassan Mohamedhaji Noor — to 12 ½ years in prison.

“There is no point in arguing that it didn’t happen,” said Roberts, directing her comments to the girl and an audience of more than 30 Noor supporters. Some cried as Noor was sentenced.

After the four-day trial in December, the judge found Noor guilty of sexually abusing three girls in his tight-knit immigrant community, which numbers about 8,000 in Portland.

In the spring, victims told police and later a grand jury that Noor had asked them to give him leg massages, then directed them to work their way up to his genitals. They ranged in age from 11 to 16 years at the time of the abuse.

The girls also had explained how unsupportive their mothers, fathers, aunts or other adults had been after they confided in them about the abuse. The girls said those trusted adults warned them that if they reported the abuse to police, no one would believe them and no one would want to marry them. The adults also told them it was up to Allah to decide Noor’s guilt, not a court of law, investigators said.

In the months leading up to trial, two of Noor’s victims recanted. The third — who stuck by her story — testified her parents had disowned her.

Hassan Noor, 46, cried at times during his sentencing hearing on Friday, Feb. 16, 2018. But Noor did not make any statements. Aimee Green/The Oregonian

Hassan Mohamedhaji Noor (center) was sentenced to more than 12 years in prison on Friday, Feb. 16, 2018. A Somali interpreter is pictured on the left of the photo. Noor’s defense is pictured on the right of the photo. (Aimee Green/The Oregonian)

A fourth young woman also testified that she’d been disowned for coming forward about Noor’s abuse of her. She was allowed to testify, even though the statute of limitations had already passed and Noor couldn’t be convicted of molesting her.

Friday, prosecutor Amber Kinney told the judge that despite the 17-year-old’s recantation, she admires her for calling 911 to stop Noor.

“I have never met a stronger woman than when I met her at grand jury,” Kinney said. “She had no independence, yet she knew what was right. And she fought for what was right.”

Kinney said the hardest part for the victims wasn’t coming forward with their reports. Instead, it was the campaign of “suppression” from Noor and the people around them, Kinney said.

Friday, the 17-year-old girl sat next to Kinney, less than 10 feet from Noor. She said she didn’t appreciate the prosecutor’s statement. She repeatedly insisted she wasn’t an abuse victim but acknowledged she has been through a lot.

“Ever since this happened, I’ve been forced to grow up. I’m 17, and I feel 35,” she said.

Noor crinkled his face, frowned and cried during the hearing. But he declined to make any statements.

Hassan Noor, 46, cried at times during his sentencing hearing on Friday, Feb. 16, 2018. But Noor did not make any statements. Aimee Green/The Oregonian

During recorded police interrogations, Noor defended himself by saying he couldn’t have done such terrible things because he is a religious man who prays five times a day.

Oregon law allowed the judge to sentence Noor to as few as 6 ¼ years in prison and as many as 70 years.

Kinney asked the judge for 25 years. Kinney said Noor still claims he’s innocent, which makes him unlikely to benefit from sex-offender treatment. A presentence investigator — who delved into Noor’s life history and mindset — determined Noor was at high risk of offending again, Kinney said.

Noor’s defense attorney, Christopher McCormack, asked for 6 ¼ years. He said Noor has done a lot of good as a hard-working father of six.

“He’s not a monster,” McCormack told the judge. “He’s a kind person who has won the hearts of the Somali community.”

Noor immigrated to the United States more than 20 years ago. He was working full-time as a Lyft driver at the time of his arrest, according to court papers.

Noor’s wife spoke, saying life without her husband has been tough. She then started to scream “Please! Please!” at the top of her lungs, before collapsing onto the courtroom floor in tears, where she lay for a minute.

In sentencing Noor to 12 ½ years, the judge said she was not giving him a lighter sentence than the prosecutor had asked out of lack of confidence in her verdict. Rather, Roberts said, she thought the sentence would be adequate in protecting society.

The judge also acknowledged that a defendant’s crimes affect a larger number of people than the victims. The harm “ripples out in concentric circles through a family” and “throughout a community,” the judge said.

Diaspora

Somali Man charged the deaths of 4 in fatal I-55 accident

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STAUTON, IL – A Colorado truck driver has been charged following an investigation into a multi-vehicle accident that killed 4 people and injured 11 others. Mohamed Jama, 54, of Greeley, Colorado, turned himself in to the Madison County Jail Monday.

The accident happened on southbound I-55 in Madison County on November 21, 2017.

The fatal accident killed 2 sisters, Madisen and Hailey Bertels and a friend, Tori Carroll, and an out of state woman, Vivian Vu in another vehicle.

Authorities say the accident occurred when a tractor-trailer driven by Mohamed Jama failed to slow down and stop for cars in front of him in a construction zone.

By the time it was all over, 7 vehicles were damaged and the people inside them injured or killed.

The sisters attended high school in Staunton.

The deaths deeply touched Staunton where people knew the young women or knew people who were their friends. Many in town were still grieving the loss. Matthew Batson said, “I’ll hear stories about them all the time, even though it’s been five months? Yes, it’s a lasting effect.”

The Madison County State`s Attorney Tom Gibbon said if convicted of all the crimes Mohamed Jama could spend the rest of his life in prison. With summer coming on and more construction zone Gibbons says there`s a warning for all of us.

“Each of us out there in our cars we really need to pay attention, watch out, slow down you never want to see something like this to happen again it so terrible for all the victim I’m sure that no person would want to be the cause of something like this.”

Jama is charged with 4 counts of reckless homicide and 8 counts of reckless driving. He`s being held in the Madison County Jail without bond.

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Books

CANADA: Edmonton author aims to boost diversity in children’s book publishing

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EDMONTON—Two years ago Rahma Mohamed’s then four-year-old daughter saw an Elsa costume, complete with blond braids, and pleaded with her mother to buy it so she would look “beautiful.”

That’s when Mohamed decided her kids needed more cultural inspiration than the blond princess from Frozen.

After a year of work, the first-time author published Muhima’s Quest, a children’s book that tells the story of a young African-America Muslim girl who wakes up on her 10th birthday and goes on a journey.

Now, Mohamed’s at work on her second book, which is due out at the end of the month. She’s on a journey of her own, she said, to boost diversity in children’s publishing.

“I wanted to create a character who had African descent and is a Muslim in a children’s book because I just found out that there were none that were available in the mainstream,” she said.

Her books show kids it’s OK to be different, she said. Take her first book: some Muslims don’t celebrate birthdays, she explains, and the little girl in the book struggles with her faith and questions why she doesn’t celebrate like her classmates do.

“The overall message is that we do things differently, but that part is what makes us beautiful,” Mohamed said.

She said she felt it necessary for her kids to see themselves represented in the books they read in order to “enhance their self-confidence, as well as bolster their sense of pride.”

Mohamed, who writes under the pen name Rahma Rodaah, self-published her first book and since last summer, has sold 200 copies locally.

“It does take a lot of resources and you have to self-finance, but I believe in the end it’s worth it,” she said.

She hopes to go bigger with her second book, which focuses on the universal concept of sibling rivalry, and features a young girl who plans on selling her little brother because she believes he is getting all the attention.

“My overall goal is to portray Muslim Africans who are basically a normal family.”

Mohamed says her previous book was well-received by parents at readings she had done at public libraries and schools.

“Most of them who are Muslims really loved that the kids could identify with the characters,” she said.

The books also acted as a conversation starter for non-Muslim families, she said.

She said, for her, the most exciting part of the journey is knowing that she is making a difference in shaping the minds of young Black Muslims.

“We are underrepresented, misunderstood and mostly mischaracterized. It is time we paint a different picture.”

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Minnesota

When radicalization lured two Somali teenagers … from Norway

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Mukhtar Ibrahim

In October 2013, two Somali teenage girls named Ayan and Leila shocked their parents by running away to join ISIS in Syria. Their radicalization story is unusual in that it happened in Norway.

Acclaimed Norwegian journalist Åsne Seierstad spent years researching what happened. Now her book, “Two Sisters: Into the Syrian Jihad” is available in the United States.

Seierstad, who discusses her book Monday night at the American Swedish Institute in Minneapolis, said she didn’t go looking for the story.

“The story actually came to me,” she said. “It was the father of the girls who actually wanted the story to be written.”

His name is Sadiq, a Somali man who worked for years to bring his family to Norway. He hoped for a better life. He thought things were going well, then everything collapsed when Ayan and Leila disappeared.

When the girls left home, their parents were in shock, Seierstad said. “They hadn’t understood what was this about. Why? And then as months went by and they got to learn more about radicalization, they realized that all the signs had been there. That the girls were like a textbook case of radicalization. And he [Sadiq] wanted the book to be written to warn others, to tell this story to warn other parents.”

It is a perplexing story. Ayan and Leila were bright, and opinionated. They didn’t put up with being pushed around.

“And that is somehow part of why they left, in their logic,” said Seierstad, adding that the girls were convinced Syria and ISIS offered a chance of eternal life.

“They believed that life here and now is not real life. Real life happens after death. And this life is only important as a test. So the better your score, the better you behave in this life, the better position you will have in heaven for eternity. So isn’t that better?”

Seierstad is known for her in-depth reporting. Her book “One of Us,” about Anders Breivik, the gunman who killed 77 people in Norway’s worst terror attack, is an international best-seller.

When published in Norway Seierstad said, “Two Sisters” became the top-selling book for two years running. What pleases her most is the breadth of her readership. She gets email from young Somali girls, and also from government officials who want to prevent future radicalization.

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