A Glencoe, Minn., man will be sentenced in January for lying to FBI agents about his contacts with ISIL operatives overseas. His attorney, meanwhile, is challenging the findings of the German de-radicalization scholar contracted to assess several Minnesota terror defendants.
Abdul Raheem Habil Ali-Skelton, 23, will be sentenced Jan. 10 on one count of making false statements to federal law enforcement. He pleaded guilty in April to lying about the extent of his communications with Syrian members of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL).
A federal judge ordered Ali-Skelton detained until at least his sentencing date after he was arrested for allegedly threatening to blow up a metro Walgreens days after his federal charges were announced.
Daniel Koehler, a German terrorism researcher, interviewed Ali-Skelton as part of a court-ordered study to evaluate risk assessment “and recommended intervention needs for de-radicalization of defendants involved in terrorism related cases.”
Ali-Skelton’s attorney, Robert Richman, has since requested more information about Koehler’s methodology, the basis for his conclusions and all recommendations made to Judge Donovan Frank. Richman said the probation office disclosed only a four-page summary of Koehler’s report but did not provide Koehler’s recommendations to the judge.
“The risk assessment fails to explain the basis for the author’s conclusion, the facts which informed that conclusion, or the methodology or analysis employed,” Richman said in a motion filed this week. “This is particularly troublesome here. This is an expert retained by the court [to aid it] in exercising its sentencing discretion. The defendant has a right to know what analysis and recommendations the expert has made to the court.”
Koehler examined Ali-Skelton while visiting Minnesota in September — the same week he testified about his interviews with six men convicted of plotting to join ISIL.
Richman said Ali-Skelton now “faces the very real risk of being sentenced on the basis of misinformation.” He pointed out that Koehler said Ali-Skelton had produced “nasheeds,” or Arabic a cappella music that has come to appear in many ISIL propaganda media, and that he also participated in “street protests.” Richman said both statements were untrue: Ali-Skelton said he enjoyed listening to nasheeds but did not produce any. Richman said he was also “flummoxed” by references to street protests that Ali-Skelton did not mention participating in.
According to Richman’s motion, Koehler said his sources included police reports and “open source information” like news articles — which Richman argued were not reliable sources of information.