Three weeks after he was freed from federal custody following a conviction for threatening FBI agents who wanted to question his brother about alleged terrorism involvement, a Minneapolis man faces a fresh round of gun possession charges stemming from an incident late last year.
Mohamed Ali Omar, 22, was charged last week with possessing a pistol in a public place without a permit, a gross misdemeanor. Minneapolis city prosecutors allege that Omar tried to hide the weapon on Oct. 16, when police arrived to investigate a report of a rowdy group near Findley Place Apartments near 32nd Street and Pillsbury Avenue S. in Minneapolis.
Charges say that police found the loaded semiautomatic Glock .45 next to a nearby fence and that Omar admitted it was his and that he carried it because he previously had been shot. Charges say Omar had a permit to purchase a handgun but not a permit to carry one in public. The gun was confiscated, and Omar was released without charges until last week.
Omar's attorney, Paul Applebaum, said his client carried the handgun because of the earlier shooting and threw it away because he didn't want to be armed when confronted by police.
Applebaum described the timing of the charges — eight months after the original incident — as "gamesmanship," given that his client was just released from seven months in jail for the FBI threats. He was convicted by a jury in March and will be sentenced in September, but Applebaum said his time will likely be considered served.
Omar was charged in November with threatening federal agents and an interpreter who arrived at his home looking for his brother. That brother, Guled Omar, is among several men charged with providing material support to the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). He awaits trial. Another brother, Ahmed Ali Omar, left Minnesota to fight in Somalia in 2007.
Deputy Minneapolis City Attorney Mary Ellen Heng, who heads the department's criminal division, said Minneapolis police decided to wait until the federal charges against Mohamed Ali Omar were resolved. Prosecutors received the case from Minneapolis police three weeks ago. Omar, who was not arrested, is scheduled to make his first court appearance July 17.
Applebaum declined to say who he thought was behind the new charges but was suspicious. "How can you explain it any other way after this many months?" he asked. "I think it's legal to do, but it's really underhanded."
FBI spokesman Kyle Loven referred questions to the Minneapolis city attorney's office.
High court ruling at issue
Chief U.S. District Judge Michael Davis ordered Omar's sentencing postponed following a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision that reversed the conviction of a Pennsylvania man sentenced to nearly four years in federal prison for posting online rants against his co-workers, estranged wife and law enforcement agents. The high court held that prosecutors must do more to prove that threatening language amounts to "true threats," which are not protected by the First Amendment.
A 54-second cellphone video, recorded by one of Omar's sisters Nov. 6, shows him on the front porch, demanding to see a business card before telling the FBI agents and a Somali-English interpreter to get off his property.
"And [if you] talk to my sister like that one more time, I'll knock your [expletive] in," Omar is heard saying as the agents walked away, warning them that if they return, "something's gonna happen to you." Prosecutors assert that he also told the agents that he had a "permit to carry."
FBI agents returned the next day with a search warrant to look for guns and ammunition, and found two empty boxes for Glock pistols, a half-empty box of bullets and a holster, according to court documents.
Omar claimed after his release that he was defending his sister, who was called "a very degrading, insulting name" by the interpreter. In a letter to Davis explaining his actions, Omar didn't apologize, but said he was a "man in the house" with great responsibilities.
"I don't want to be the brother who disappeared and paid no attention to my younger siblings," he wrote.