Complex abuse case wraps up with Minneapolis cop's plea

  • Article by: DAVID CHANEN
  • Star Tribune
  • November 3, 2011 - 7:10 AM

A few hours after authorities charged Minneapolis police officer Mukhtar Abdulkadir with felony domestic assault in January, accusing him of hitting his wife in the face with his service weapon at their Andover home, she walked into the Anoka County attorney's office and recanted her allegation.

That didn't keep the case from moving forward, and last month, Abdulkadir pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor count of disorderly conduct.

The plea concluded what has been a highly unusual case. Along the way, supporters of Abdulkadir packed the courtroom for his pretrial hearings, and he was fired from the Minneapolis Police Department after the felony charges were filed.

Assistant Anoka County Attorney Paul Young said that among the thousands of cases that have crossed his desk over a nearly 20-year career, few have been more difficult. Besides the recantation by Abdulkadir's wife, Munira Maalimisaq, a judge ruled that her initial statement to police would not be admissible at trial unless she testified. She hired an attorney and offered an affidavit outlining why she had lied to authorities. Police also couldn't locate her, making it impossible to subpoena her as a witness.

Abdulkadir, 37, is one of a handful of police officers in Minnesota of Somali descent and has been described as a role model in the Somali community. Whether the legal resolution of his case, under which he will retain his peace officer's license, results in his reinstatement with the Minneapolis police is unclear.

"It will be a loss to the police department and Somali community if he permanently loses his job," said Omar Jamal, an advocate for the Somali community.

Abdulkadir was charged in January with felony second-degree assault, terroristic threats and domestic assault. According to the criminal complaint against him, his wife told authorities the following: He threw her on the couch after an argument and punched her in the ribs. As she was screaming, he put a pillow over her head. With his 3-year-old son yelling at him to stop, Abdulkadir grabbed a handgun from a closet and hit his wife in the face with the butt end. She told police that her husband had been violent with her in the past and had threatened to kill her, the complaint said.

Shortly after the charges were filed, Maalimisaq told authorities the allegations she had made were false. In an eight-page affidavit filed in September, Maalimisaq said she had had an argument with Abdulkadir about money, jealousy and his unhappiness with the marriage before she went to police.

She was high on pills and cried for officers to make her story more believable, the affidavit said. Once she realized what she did was wrong, Maalimisaq went to the county attorney's office to come clean, she said in the document. An unnamed prosecutor she talked to didn't want to hear the truth, she said.

Prosecution went ahead

The state's Appeals Court has affirmed convictions involving cases in which a victim of domestic violence has recanted, and prosecutors won't hesitate to move forward with such cases, Young said. Abdulkadir's case became a priority, he said, because a person sworn to be a peace officer was accused of using the weapon he carries to protect the public to inflict harm on his wife.

Jamal, who attended a court hearing and talked to Abdulkadir and Maalimisaq, said the prosecution was heavy-handed and overlooked the facts of the case from the husband's perspective.

Because the judge ruled against the use of Maalimisaq's statements to police and authorities couldn't locate her for an interview, Young said his hands were tied.

"If we could get the victim to court and show the credibility of her police statements, at least we could be in the game," he said.

At least three to four alleged victims of domestic abuse fail to show up for court each month in Anoka County, he said. Their attorneys have no obligation to tell authorities where to find them, he said.

It's not uncommon for victims to recant, said Connie Moore, executive director of Alexandra House in Blaine, an advocate program for domestic abuse victims. They may fear losing their children or the consequences if their abuser goes to jail, and their decision is often influenced by family or friends, she said. Victims from immigrant communities add another layer of complexity with their cultural issues, she said.

Ryan Kaess, who represented Maalimisaq, said she received no pressure from relatives, friends or members of the Somali community to recant her story. In her affidavit, she said that she wanted to be clear her husband never hurt her and that she is now "clean and sober" from drugs.

Abdulkadir pleaded guilty Oct. 17, a week before his trial was scheduled to start.

Plea agreements rarely satisfy everybody's interests, Young said.

Abdulkadir would have lost his peace officer's license if he had been convicted of a felony. He was fired by the department after the felony charges were filed. As part of his plea agreement, his misdemeanor charge will be dismissed if he completes several requirements in a year.

Robert Fowler, who represented Abdulkadir, said the Minneapolis Police Department has a precedent of rehiring officers in similar scenarios. He's comfortable with the case outcome, but he has sympathy for Maalimisaq and a host of personal issues she was going through before she made allegations against her husband.

"There is nothing to hinder him from doing his job," Fowler said.

David Chanen • 612-673-4465

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