Sunday, March 9, 2014
PORTLAND — A judge sentenced Mohammed Mukhtar on Tuesday to serve eight years in prison for breaking into a Portland woman’s apartment as she slept and raping her, saying the 18-year-old shows “no prospect for rehabilitation.”
Mohammed Mukhtar is flanked by his defense attorney (left) and a Somali interpreter during his sentencing in Cumberland County Court on Tuesday.
John Ewing / Staff Photographer
Mohammed Mukhtar arrives in court escorted by a Cumberland County sheriff's deputy.
John Ewing / Staff Photographer
“This was a terrible assault on a sleeping, helpless victim,” Judge Richard Mulhern said in issuing the sentence in Cumberland County Unified Criminal Court.
Mukhtar, who had sought to be tried as a juvenile rather than an adult, listened to the judge’s words through a Somali interpreter. He showed no reaction other than occasionally wiping his hands over his face as a photographer tried to take his picture.
Mukhtar came to the U.S. as a boy from war-torn Somalia and now faces deportation after his release. The judge also ordered him to register as a lifetime sex offender.
His attorney, Jonathan Berry, told the judge that Mukhtar wants to return to Africa but that his client otherwise had nothing to say at the hearing. Berry had said previously that deportation could prove difficult since the United States has no diplomatic relations with Somalia.
The judge said Mukhtar deserved the “significant” sentence and that he found nothing in Mukhtar’s behavior, other than his young age, to warrant a lesser sentence.
“Based on the pattern of antisocial behavior he’s demonstrated so far, I think the only thing the youth would add is more offenses over the course of time. I’ve seen no remorse by Mr. Mukhtar from his actions so far. I see no prospect of rehabilitation,” Mulhern said. “I think it’s simply a matter that society needs to be protected from Mr. Mukhtar for a period of time.”
The prosecutor, Assistant District Attorney Deborah Chmielewski, and Berry reached the sentencing recommendation that the judge imposed as part of a plea agreement last month. Mukhtar pleaded guilty on April 18 to three felonies – gross sexual assault, burglary and aggravated criminal trespassing -– and a misdemeanor charge of criminal trespassing.
Chmielewski said at the plea hearing that if the case had gone to trial, she was prepared to show videos and call witnesses who would say that Mukhtar entered an apartment complex on High Street around 3 a.m. on May 26, 2012, by climbing through a window of a man’s apartment, then entered the woman’s apartment elsewhere in the building.
Chmielewski had said the 50-year-old woman awoke to find Mukhtar in her bed, raping her. The prosecutor said he left behind a condom with his DNA on it and a condom wrapper with his fingerprints on it.
From the time of Mukhtar’s arrest, two days after the rape, the case against him went back and forth between juvenile court and adult court.
Mukhtar was first charged as an adult, as Portland police used the birth date he had given them: Jan. 1, 1994.
Berry subsequently argued successfully that Mukhtar was assigned the Jan. 1 birth date when he came to the United States as a refugee, and that his actual birthday is Oct. 25, 1994, so he was a juvenile at the time of his arrest.
The adult charges against Mukhtar were dropped last summer and raised in juvenile court.
Prosecutors sought to reverse that, calling witnesses at juvenile court hearings in November and January to show that Mukhtar’s case should be in adult court for several reasons, including the severity of the charges.
Mukhtar dropped his objections in January, as the final witnesses were about to be called.
Many members of Mukhtar’s family attended Tuesday’s sentencing hearing. As he was being led out of the courtroom by deputy sheriffs, his mother stood and hugged him.
Staff Writer Scott Dolan can be contacted at: 791-6304 or at email@example.com