The Tennessee Court of Appeals on Wednesday cleared the names of three Minnesota men convicted of their alleged role in an interstate sex trafficking ring run mostly by Somali gang members.

Idris Ibrahim Fahra, Andrew Kayachitch and Yassin Abdirahman Yusuf each spent more than four years in jail after they were found guilty of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of children. Fahra also was found guilty of sexually trafficking children. After the jury convictions, a district court judge acquitted the men, saying the evidence and witness testimony did not back the charges. The Appeals Court upheld that decision this week.

“Finally it’s over for these three folks,” said David Komisar, Yusuf’s attorney. “And they will soon be free men.”

Komisar has not spoken to Yusuf about the news, but said he can imagine Yusuf was “ecstatic and patiently waiting.”

During the federal trial in 2012 held in Nashville, Fahra, Kayachitch and Yusuf were among 30 people — most of whom from the Twin Cities — charged in connection with a human trafficking ring that sold Somali girls into prostitution over the course of a decade.

A Minnesota Somali witness identified only as Jane Doe No. 2 testified that she was used as a prostitute by gang members starting at age 12.

In their decision to affirm the three men’s acquittals, Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals questioned the honesty Jane Doe No. 2, who said she was underage during the alleged sex acts occurred. Her actual age remains in dispute, but she could be 5 months to 4 years older than what she claimed.

Also in question is a St. Paul police officer who was the lead agent in the case. The officer was caught lying to the grand jury and “likely exaggerated or fabricated important aspects” of a story that Jane Doe No. 2 was taken in by the Somali gang members for sex, according to the decision.

“ … Despite our acute concern, based on our painstaking review of the record, that this story of sex trafficking and prostitution may be fictitious and the prosecution’s two primary witnesses, Jane Doe No. 2 and Jane Doe No. 5, unworthy of belief,” Circuit Judge Alice M. Batchelder wrote.

“The harm that was done because a young lady lied about her age and her circumstance,” Komisar said Wednesday “ … it was all not true.”

In an indictment unsealed in 2010, investigators accused members of three Somali gangs with running a prostitution ring. Their alleged crimes crossed state lines, as girls were driven from the Twin Cities to Nashville to Ohio, to perform sex acts for money, liquor or marijuana, the indictment said.

Defense attorneys claimed that the witness willingly had sex with multiple defendants and lied about it. They also repeatedly questioned whether Jane Doe No. 2 was a juvenile at the time the sex acts occurred, because prosecutors revealed on the eve of trial that her birth certificate was falsified.

The federal trial was held in Nashville and not in Minnesota because the U.S. attorney’s office in Tennessee chose to take on the complex case.

 

Staff writer Allie Shah contributed to this report.

Twitter: @KarenAnelZamora