Before Ahmed Sule set foot outside the Anoka County jail late last month, a half dozen hastily gathered detectives waited to shadow his every move.
Rape charges involving an 84-year-old victim with cancer had just been dismissed because of rejected DNA evidence, and prosecutors didn't want Sule to vanish in the wind before getting another sample.
The detectives watched as a friend picked him up and drove to a convenience store. Near the entrance, Sule tossed a cigarette butt, which a detective scooped up with rubber gloves. Shortly after, police stopped traffic on Hwy. 10 at the end of the evening rush hour to hunt for another cigarette butt. The same evening, police picked up Sule on an unrelated burglary incident, putting him back behind bars within five hours of his release.
DNA testing later came back positive, authorities said, allowing the sex assault charges to be refiled against Sule on Wednesday.
The victim died on May 1, but the medical examiner couldn't connect the assault to his death. Prosecutor Wade Kish, concerned about the man's health, took the very rare step of getting a judge's approval to take the man's testimony in March. Because Sule's attorney was allowed to cross-examine the man, the testimony will be admitted as evidence if the case goes to trial.
Sule, 24, of Fridley, will be back in court next week to face five counts of felony criminal sexual conduct and attempted sexual conduct, as well as one count of burglary in the other case.
Police focused on Sule as a suspect in the September sexual assault, which occurred a few days after a woman identified him as the man who burglarized her house, located a few blocks from where the assault occurred. In the burglary case, the charges allege, Sule broke in and stood in her bedroom, and when she awoke, put a hand on her arm, put his finger to his mouth and said "shush." She screamed and he ran away, but he had already taken several things, the charges said. The woman later identified Sule in a lineup.
In the assault case, the victim told police that a man forced his way into his house and said, "I love you, I want to kiss you," according to the complaint. The man tried to fight back as he was assaulted, but he was weak from ongoing chemotherapy and radiation for lung cancer. The victim was also legally blind.
When police arrested Sule the same evening, he told them he was drunk and didn't understand what was happening, Kish said. There were also some apparent language barriers, he said. The detective said he didn't notice any signs of intoxication and asked Sule for a DNA sample, and he complied, Kish said.
Sule was charged with assault in October. His public defender challenged the DNA evidence on April 8. The judge reviewed the 13-page transcript and audio recording of the detective's interview with Sule. The judge wasn't critical of the interview, but he ruled that Sule didn't know the ramifications of consenting to providing a DNA sample, Kish said.
Because the DNA was the only evidence to link Sule to the assault, the judge dismissed the case.
That was about 4:30 p.m. April 20. Kish kept checking his computer for the judge's decision, and the dismissal triggered a call to the Anoka County Sheriff's Office. Within 40 minutes, a team of six to eight detectives from the office and the Anoka Hennepin Drug Task Force headed for the jail.
Beyond the need for a new DNA sample, there was a public safety concern over Sule's release, Kish said. It wasn't clear how the detectives would get the new sample, but collecting discarded cigarette butts was legal, he said.
Two days after Sule's arrest, charges were filed in the Sept. 13 burglary. Kish said his office could wait because it previously had filed the more serious assault charge.
A search warrant was approved for police to take a new DNA swab from Sule. It was tested by the state's Bureau of Criminal Apprehension, which compared it to a sample found on the victim.
On May 9, the sheriff's office was informed that Sule couldn't be excluded as a potential contributor of the DNA mixture taken from the victim. However, 99. 9999995 percent of the general population can be excluded as potential contributors, the charge said.
From the day of Sule's release from jail, a victim advocate from the county attorney's office was in contact with the man's family. They learned about the re-filed charges less than three weeks after his funeral.
David Chanen • 612-673-4465