The tiger, beyond a reasonable doubt

The New York Times pioneered the form of the story portraying the suffering of favored groups (i.e., groups they favor). Comedian Mort Sahl has been credited with the satirical headline that captures the form with his version of the New York Times’s take on the apocalypse: “World ends, women & minorities hardest hit.” In “Terrorist wannabes guilty, Somalis hardest hit,” I linked to stories published by the Star Tribune and other media outlets that had adapted the form to the just-concluded terrorism trial resulting in guilty verdicts against the three “Minnesota men” charged with seeking to join ISIS.

The Times did not cover the trial. The Times didn’t send a reporter to town until the jury retired to deliberate. Not having seen a Times reporter in court over the weeks I spent at the trial, I wrote Healy on Saturday to ask if he had attended the trial. He promptly responded that he regretted he hadn’t.

The Times, however, is now trying to make up for lost time. Times reporters Jack Healy and Matt Furber inserted a touch of the classic form via a quote from Burhan Mohumed in their story on the verdicts.

Today Healy and Furber portray the impact of the “Justice or ‘conspiracy’? Terrorism trial divides Somalis in Minneapolis.” The division in the Somali community to which the headline refers could be seen in court. Families of defendants on trial conflicted with the families of two defendants who had pleaded guilty and become cooperating witnesses as well as the family of the co-conspirator who turned informant.

As we waited in the hallway to enter the courtroom one morning, the division even gave rise to an intrafamily fight between the mother of one such witness and her daughter. The daughter was also a girlfriend of one of the defendants on trial. Wearing a hijab, the daughter started beating on the mother and dropping the F-bomb at maximum volume. She refused to relent until she was restrained and removed by an FBI agent. I was standing right next to the mother and daughter when the fight broke out and the shouting started.

I found Healy and Furber’s story of interest. They quote a Somali or two who find some possible merit in the government’s prosecution. However, I regret to see the return of Mohumed in their story today; Mohumed was thrown out of the courthouse for the duration of the trial after repeated infractions of Judge Davis’s protocols that had previously resulted in his removal from the overflow courtroom.

When Mohumed attempted to intercede in the fight between mother and daughter that morning (I believe), the marshals removed him and attempted to take his picture pursuant to Judge Davis’s standing order. Mohumed refused to let them take his picture and the marshals accordingly brought him before Judge Davis. Judge Davis had him come forward in open court twice that morning. After questioning him based on information provided by the marshals, Judge Davis banned Mohumed from the courthouse.

Mohamed is a friend of defendant Guled Omar. In its first story the Times gave Mohumed a platform on which to sound off on the trial. Healy and Furber return to him for more in today’s story:

As he watched boys play basketball outside a community center in central Minneapolis, Burhan Mohumed thought of his friend Guled Omar.

He said Mr. Omar had played here before “he was caught up in that storm.” Mr. Mohumed attended the trial regularly but was barred from the courthouse after he intervened in a fight and argued with court security officers.

After the trial, Andrew M. Luger, the United States attorney for Minnesota, condemned the threats and courthouse scuffles as intolerable and “unheard-of.”

Mr. Mohumed supported the three defendants and, echoing others here, he was upset they could face life in prison even though they never left for Syria and never pulled a trigger.

“If they can convict them on words and thoughts, it’s over,” he said. “People will not feel safe in our communities.”

Now if you have read the affidavits supporting the charges against the defendants, or if you have taken a look at the indictment, or if you attended the trial, you know the defendants were accused of committing numerous acts in furtherance of their ardent desire to join ISIS. You also know that, in order to return guilty verdicts, the jury was required to find that they committed such acts. The jury so found.

Articulating what they present as a division in Minnesota’s Somali community, Healy and Furber present the case as a conundrum like that of The Lady or the Tiger? It’s not. It’s the Tiger, beyond a reasonable doubt.

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