Jury Finds Aggravating Factors in Fridley Sex-Assault Case
That lets Judge give Ahmed Sule a longer prison term at Ahmed Sule's Dec. 2 sentencing.
An Anoka County District Court jury decided Friday morning there were aggravating factors in the Sept. 19, 2010 Fridley sex-assault crimes they convicted Ahmed Sule of on Tuesday.
The jury answered all six questions put to them about whether the victim's advanced age and infirm health made him vulnerable, and whether Sule knew or should have known about that vulnerability.
The finding of aggravating factors allows Judge Tammi Frederickson to give Sule a sentence outside of Minnesota's sentencing guidelines. However, it does not require a longer sentence, defense attorney Jill Brisbois said in an interview.
The Friday verdict brought to a close a two-week trial in a case that shook the Fridley community: the sexual assault of an 84-year-old man in his home, with another Fridley resident accused of the crime.
The adult daughter of the victim, who has since died, was the only witness to testify in the sentencing portion of the trial held Friday. (She traveled from Kentucky to testify this week, and Frederickson set Sule's sentencing for Dec. 2—a Friday—in part to make it convenient for the daughter to attend.)
Assistant Anoka County Attorney Wade Kish asked her about her father's condition in September 2010.
She said he had been legally blind since the early 1990s, with only 10 percent of his vision in one eye. He lived alone, having cared for his wife for several years while she suffered from dementia before moving her to a health care facility.
He enjoyed taking walks, she said, but treatment for cancer diagnosed in July 2010 limited his walking to two doors down from his house. "He would only walk to the corner (of Seventh Street and Madison) and back," she said. He couldn't climb stairs and seemed tired when she visited earlier that September, she said.
'Should Have Known'?
Sule had the opportunity but did not testify. Frederickson told the jury that that was his constitutional right and they should not make any inferences from the fact that he didn't testify.
Kish said the victim's age and impaired physical abilities should have been apparent to Sule during his struggle with the victim.
Defense attorney Rebecca A. Waxse told the jury the prosecution had failed to present any evidence about what Sule knew of the victim.
After the jury left the courtroom to deliberate, Sule's attorneys asked the judge to find that the prosecution had not met the minimum standards of presenting evidence about Sule knowledge of the victim's vulnerability. Frederickson denied the motion.
Tears and Silence
Sule's earlier courtroom composure returned Friday after he broke down Wednesday morning when the jury was first set to hear evidence on aggravating factors.
On Wednesday Frederickson had granted Brisbois request for a new examination of Sule's competency to stand trial. Brisbois said in an interview that the report from that examination confirmed an early result that Sule was competent.
Sule looked over his shoulder from the defense table to see the jury as they entered the courtroom Friday morning. He sat upright throughout the proceeding, wearing headphones with an Oromo language interpreter at his side.
At Friday's sentencing trial came to an end, Sule sat silently with his head in his hands.
Outside in the hallway, the victim's daughter gave Kish a tearful hug. "Thank you," she said.