JAN. 26, 2016. A cold Tuesday morning as hundreds of students walked to Manchester High School Central.
Once inside, several upset girls told their teachers that a young man had approached them and asked about sex. Ahmed Abukar, who was 19 at the time, told the girls to come with him. He told one he had a gun. He spoke in crude terms about his anatomy to another.
He touched them on their rear ends.
With a description in hand, police quickly picked up Abukar. A search found what police believed was heroin and marijuana in his pockets.
Eventually, 12 girls and women — ranging in age from 15 to 28 — said Abukar had touched them, followed them and made inappropriate comments. Prosecutors brought 24 criminal charges — one of misdemeanor sexual assault and one of misdemeanor stalking for each victim.
Given the context — girls on their way to school accosted by a drug user while free on bail for other crimes — you’d expect that Abukar would be in big trouble.
But in Abukar’s world, you can plead guilty and get off with the 216 days you spent in jail awaiting trial.
You avoid landing on the sexual-offender registry.
You don’t follow your probation orders.
You avoid deportation.
And you live with your mom and don’t hold a job, according to applications he has filed over the years for public defenders and court-appointed lawyers.
“What we’re trying to do with his sentence is give him a path forward to good behavior while keeping him on a short leash,” Hillsborough County Attorney Dennis Hogan said.
That sentence — which also calls for three years of probation and psycho-sexual group counseling — was imposed in August 2016. (Abukar was in court two weeks ago when a judge clarified that he does not have to register as a sex offender. The judge also jailed him for about a month because he wasn’t showing up for psycho-sexual counseling.)
I tried to reach Abukar this week, but he is at Valley Street jail until today on the probation violation. My first question to him: What kind of a guest acts like this?
Abukar lives in the United States either as an immigrant or refugee. I don’t know which, because federal officials don’t readily discuss someone’s immigration status. But according to court records, Immigration and Customs Enforcement took Abukar into custody in late 2016. He remained in ICE custody for about seven months and was released this past July.
ICE won’t explain why he was in their custody.
But in general, immigrants and refugees can end up getting deported if they are convicted of serious crimes. If the crimes aren’t really serious, they obtain waivers that allow them to remain in the United States.
This is the most that ICE spokesman Shawn Neudaeur said about Abukar. “This individual was granted an immigration benefit recently, and is presently no longer subject to removal proceedings.”
It’s not hard to connect the dots here.
Abukar had already been convicted in connection to the Central High School girls when ICE grabbed him. ICE seemed to take it seriously enough to jail him and try to get him deported. Obviously, it wasn’t good enough, and Abukar was released.
Hogan said his office was not asked to weigh in on any immigration hearing regarding Abukar. Nor did prosecutors take his immigration status into account when they worked out a plea deal.
Here’s a brief rundown of other standouts in Abukar’s record:
• He faced felony theft charges after allegedly stealing an iPhone and iPad from a parked car in August 2015. A year later prosecutors dropped the felony charge as part of a plea bargain involving the Central assaults.
• A judge dismissed another felony — possession of two packages of counterfeit cocaine — after prosecutors didn’t bring an indictment within a 90-day deadline. Hogan said the cocaine turned out to be counterfeit, so he let the charge expire. (Funny, when police arrested Abukar for the Central girls assaults, he had counterfeit heroin in his possession, and the drug charge was dropped. Looks as if Abukar likes carrying around small amounts of powder in plastic bags.)
• From 2013 to 2016, Abukar has been arrested on several misdemeanor charges, only to see them later dropped or end with suspended sentences. They include fighting at Memorial High School, shoplifting from the Mall of New Hampshire, threatening a supposed snitch, and using an alias — Ali Abdi — to pass himself off to police.
• He’s missed appointments for court-ordered drug counseling and sexual-predator counseling. He’s tested positive for marijuana. He’s given probation officers a home address that doesn’t exist. He has lived with his mother while she babysits, despite a probation order he stay away from kids.
Hogan said prosecutors got what they thought was important in the plea bargain. That involved the jail time, and the “short leash” that included probation monitoring, counseling and no contact with minors, Hogan said.
As for the sex offender registry, experts thought that the registry would not aid in his rehabilitation, Hogan said.
“Rehabilitation is a part of almost all sentences, as is punishment,” he said.
Recently, I’ve written a lot of stories about illegal immigrants who find themselves in trouble with ICE. The hard-working dad who got busted when he got a flat tire in Deerfield. The Brazilian who faces deportation despite years of working with federal officials as a confidential informant. Indonesians who thought they had found refuge here from religious prosecution.
All live crime-free lives, raise families, work hard and built a respectable life in this country. All hoped that they would be accepted here because of their values and the hard work that the world associates with America.
Looks like they had it all wrong.