Federal authorities dismissed charges against all 16 remaining defendants in an alleged multistate sex-trafficking ring after a scathing Court of Appeals opinion disclosed that a St. Paul police officer lied, the U.S. attorney’s office in Tennessee announced Tuesday.
The dismissal was prompted after the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals recently cleared the names of three Minnesota men convicted of their alleged role in case. After the jury convictions, a district judge acquitted the men, saying the evidence and witness testimony did not back the charges. The Appeals Court upheld that decision last week.
The three men acquitted last week were among 30 people — 21 from the Twin Cities — charged in connection with the case.
On Friday, some of the 16 defendants whose cases are pending were released. Most are from the Twin Cities, but have relocated.
Minneapolis attorney Gary Wolf’s client, Liban Omar, was released after serving 54 months while waiting for his trial.
“Everybody in the world prejudged these guys as the devil incarnate, and there was nothing to it,” Wolf said. “It’s like the Salem witch trials. It’s the same crap. People make allegations, it rolls down the hill. They weren’t witches. These guys weren’t devils. All built on lies.”
In a written statement, David Boling, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Nashville, announced the dismissal against the remaining defendants.
“We’ve conducted a thorough review of the Sixth Circuit’s recent opinions and have considered all possible options for moving forward with this case in light of those opinions,” Boling said.
The ruling also caused St. Paul police to pursue an internal affairs investigation into Sgt. Heather Weyker. The Appeals Court said that Weyker lied to a grand jury, that she “likely” exaggerated or fabricated aspects of the case, and that the whole thing “may be fictitious.” She was placed on paid administrative leave last week.
Wolf said he’s never seen a case like this in his 34 years of being a lawyer.
“I was just telling [Omar] that only in America, man. Believe in the system,” Wolf said. “My hats off to the government for finally seeing that this case should not go forward.”