A former Eden Prairie wrestling coach has been found not guilty of charges he sexually assaulted two girls on his team.
Mustafa Shabazz, 45, was acquitted by two juries. Both cases were tried separately, with one in Hennepin County, which wrapped up in June, and the other verdict coming this week in Scott County.
"We are relieved, just relieved," said Brockton Hunter, Shabazz's lawyer. "Mustafa has maintained his innocence from the beginning, cooperated fully with police and we're just relieved that two juries heard the evidence and ultimately came back with a resounding answer."
Hunter argued that police mishandled the case from the beginning, saying the accusations stemmed from parents and players upset over a lack of coaching attention in a highly competitive wrestling program.
"This came to a head when Mr. Shabazz started spending more time coaching another wrestler on the team," he said. "There is this trend across the nation of youth sports politics spilling over into nastier allegations."
Prosecutors said Shabazz assaulted the two girls in 2019. One was 10 years old at the time, and told police that he touched her in her genital area while demonstrating moves. He claimed it was an accident, but then continued to do it, according to the charging documents.
The other was 11 and traveled with the team and coach to tournaments around the state. She told police Shabazz started giving her side hugs after tournaments, which made her uncomfortable. The hugs became longer and longer, until eventually he started reaching his hand across her across genitals, according to charging documents.
Hunter argued in court that the mother of one of the girls and the first officer to talk to her had coached her on what to say. Body-camera footage of that first interview showed the girl was reluctant to say Shabazz had done more than give her "long hugs that made her uncomfortable," Hunter said.
"It took a great deal of effort by the mother and the officer to get her to go beyond that, and they were literally putting words in her mouth regarding the way that this happened," he said.
It's unclear what will happen next for Shabazz, Hunter said. He may try to resume his coaching career.
"The question that remains to answer is just how much of his life he can put back to together," Hunter said. "Right now we're just grateful for the juries of Hennepin and Scott counties who saw all the evidence and came back with their verdicts."