Friday, April 20, 2012
Somali gangs used girls for prostitution in Nashville apartments
By KRISTIN M. HALL,Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — A Somali woman testified in a federal child sexual trafficking trial on Thursday that young girls and women from Minnesota, Ohio and Atlanta were being used as prostitutes in a Nashville apartment.
The trial includes nine out of a total of 30 people who have been accused of being involved in a child sexual trafficking ring that prosecutors say was run by Somali gangs from the refugee communities in Tennessee and Minnesota.
The witness, who was only identified as Jane Doe 5 in the Nashville courtroom, said that one of the defendants would bring men to the apartment to have sex with girls and women who 15 to 20 years old.
She is the second witness to testify under anonymity in the trial that has drawn crowds of Somalis to watch the proceedings. Federal prosecutors have had difficulty getting people from the Somali communities to testify. And on Thursday a witness chose jail time rather than to testify against the defendants, several of whom are of Somali descent.
Jane Doe 5 said that other Somalis have called her a "snitch" and a prostitute and they think that she was responsible for the arrests. But she said the men and women who were using the girls for prostitution were the ones who were hurting their communities.
"I am sick of them and what they are doing for the Somali community," she told jurors.
She said that like many Somali refugees, she doesn't know her exact date of birth, but her immigration papers say she was born in 1983. She said that she can't read or write and was being used to have sex with men in Minnesota when she was around 15 or 16 years old.
One of the defendants, Dahir Nor Ibrahim, who went by the street name of "Dahir Lucky" told her that he had money and cars and that he wanted her to move from Minnesota to Nashville to work for him. She said that the girls involved in the prostitution were also Somalis with didn't have family or any money.
She said when she moved from Minnesota to Nashville around 2003 or 2004, she was living on-and-off with one of the defendants, Fadumo Farah. Farah, she said, would bring men to the apartment to have sex with the girls and young women.
She said she would have sex with men that Farah introduced her to, but only later learned that he was getting paid. She said she overheard Farah make trades for sex for drugs and cash.
But defense attorneys who questioned her told the jurors that she had been in psychiatric custody. She admitted that she used to be a heavy drinker and would use marijuana daily and had at one point lost custody of her child.
Luke Evans, the defense attorney for Farah, asked the witness if she was ever diagnosed as being delusional and paranoid, and she replied that she believed the entire Somali community was "out to get her."
The witness had trouble at times remembering exact dates for events that she described and said she would drink to forget what had happened to her. She also denied that the federal prosecutors were helping her or giving her gifts.
The case was delayed several times before starting earlier this month. Another witness, who was identified in court as Jane Doe 2, testified last week that she was used as a child prostitute in Minnesota and Tennessee, but her exact age is unknown because prosecutors have said her birth certificate is a fake.
Many Somalis who came to the United States as refugees from the civil war do not have accurate birth records and some of the defendants have claimed that they were also juveniles at the time. The unclear ages are an added burden on government prosecutors.
On Thursday, prosecutors attempted to force a witness, Abdullahi Farah, to testify for them, but he refused and was ordered to be detained in civil contempt by the U.S. Marshals until the trial ends. According to court records, Farah said that he didn't want to testify because the government had lied to him and he felt a risk to his safety and that of his family.
He could face criminal contempt if he doesn't testify and could face additional jail time.