This week's federal perjury conviction of a Minneapolis man for lying during an investigation into 2020 absentee ballot delivery is drawing attention to his relation to a sitting state senator and another candidate for that body.
Muse Mohamud Mohamed was found guilty by a federal jury on Tuesday on two counts of making false declarations before a grand jury, as reported by the Minnesota Reformer and Sahan Journal. His brother-in-law is Sen. Omar Fateh, DFL-Minneapolis, and his sister is DFL-endorsed Senate candidate Zaynab Mohamed, who is running to represent a neighboring district in the same city.
Mohamed also served as a campaign volunteer for Fateh, who later told Sahan Journal that he was "troubled" by Tuesday's verdict, which arrived after a two-day trial and only 40 minutes of deliberation.
"Our campaign's mission has always been to motivate and organize the people of our district to participate in elections," Fateh said in a written statement to the publication. "In doing so, we are committed to upholding our state's election laws and processes. I am troubled by this conviction. I am more committed than ever to organizing and governing to strengthen a fair and free democracy."
Fateh did not respond to a request for comment from the Star Tribune and voted remotely at the Capitol on Wednesday.
Zaynab Mohamed meanwhile released a statement of her own, writing that the jury verdict "was hard to hear, and I appreciate that they made the best decision they could with the evidence and defense presented."
"I also recognize justice is not always served equally, and I will continue to advocate for a system that truly reflects the promise of equal justice under the law," she said.
Mohamed's attorney, Charles Clippert, said Wednesday that "we are not commenting to anybody on the case."
The investigation concentrated on the use of "agent delivery" in the absentee voting process in Minnesota. Voters who intend to vote in person but are unable to for health reasons or disabilities can request absentee ballots after the normal deadline and can designate someone to serve as an agent on their behalf.
An agent can receive and deliver ballots for up to three voters, but no more, in any given election.
According to a prosecution filing, city election documents show that Mohamed delivered three ballots as an agent for three voters in the Aug. 11, 2020, primary election. But prosecutors allege the three voters did not know Mohamed and did not ask him to pick up or deliver absentee ballots for them. One ballot he allegedly attempted to return was rejected because the voter had voted in person.
Mohamed was later subpoenaed and testified twice before a federal grand jury investigating the agent delivery process for the 2020 primary, the filing said.
He is the only person known to have been indicted as a result of the grand jury investigation, which is a secret proceeding. Charges against Mohamed stem from an FBI criminal probe.
Sahan Journal reported that an FBI agent testified at trial that the grand jury investigation into the agent delivery process has been ongoing for at least a year and has involved at least 80 witnesses.
DFL Party Chair Ken Martin called Mohamed's conduct "completely unacceptable" and added that "he deserves to be held accountable for breaking the law."
"Though actions like his are exceedingly rare, they still deserve our strongest and most unequivocal condemnation," Martin said in a statement after the verdict. "I am grateful to the prosecutors who caught Mohamed's illegal conduct and brought him to justice. The vigilance of our law enforcement agents in spotting and tackling the rare instances of election-related misconduct only serves to underscore the security of our elections."
Before Fateh commented Tuesday, Senate DFL leadership called on him to address the case "for the sake of his constituents and the public at large."
In a joint statement, Senate DFL Leader Melisa López Franzen and Assistant Senate Leaders Mary Kunesh, Foung Hawj, and Nick Frentz said, "The ability to cast a vote freely, with the assurance it will be counted accurately, is a cornerstone of our democracy. Every allegation of voter irregularity is a serious matter."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.