Sentencing the “Minnesota men” (2)

Judge Davis has presided over the convictions of nine “Minnesota men” (Somali Minnesotans) who conspired to support ISIS and will now sentence then individually at hearings to be conducted today through Wednesday. He has scheduled three hearings a day in an ascending order of difficulty: three defendants who cooperated with the prosecution today, three who pleaded guilty with no cooperation tomorrow and three who contested the charges at trial on Wednesday. I’ll be attending the hearings and reporting here.

The Star Tribune’s Stephen Montemayor previewed the sentencings in “All eyes on Minnesota federal judge before sentencing in nation’s biggest ISIL recruitment case.” Montemayor includes this quotable quote from Judge Davis: “This community — people are starting to think these are misdemeanors.”

To whom is Judge Davis referring? Montemayor does not say, but newly elected state representative Ilhan Omar must be one. Here the case of the “Minnesota men” crosses over with the curious case of Ilhan Omar. We haven’t gotten to the bottom of Omar’s case, but I’m afraid we’re getting there.

Omar has written Judge Davis in advance of the sentencings. She knows virtually nothing about the case. She treats it as an opportunity to exploit for the purpose of the identity politics that is propelling her to international fame. Thanks to FOX 9 for posting the text of Omar’s letter to Judge Davis. Here it is:

Honorable Judge Davis,

As you undoubtedly deliberate with great caution the sentencing of nine recently convicted Somali-American men, I bring to your attention the ramifications of sentencing young men who made a consequential mistake to decades in federal prison. Incarcerating 20-year-old men for 30 or 40 years is essentially a life sentence. Society will have no expectations of the to be 50 or 60-year-old released prisoners; it will view them with distrust and revulsion. Such punitive measures not only lack efficacy, they inevitably create an environment in which extremism can flourish, aligning with the presupposition of terrorist recruitment: “Americans do not accept you and continue to trivialize your value. Instead of being a nobody, be a martyr.”

The best deterrent to fanaticism is a system of compassion. We must alter our attitude and approach; if we truly want to affect change, we should refocus our efforts on inclusion and rehabilitation. A long-term prison sentence for one who chose violence to combat direct marginalization is a statement that our justice system misunderstands the guilty. A restorative approach to justice assesses the lure of criminality and addresses it.

The desire to commit violence is not inherent to people — it is the consequences of systematic alienation; people seek violent solutions when the process established for enacting change is inaccessible to them. Fueled by disaffection turned to malice, if the guilty were willing to kill and be killed fighting perceived injustice, imagine the consequence of them hearing, “I believe you can be rehabilitated. I want you to become part of my community, and together we will thrive.” We use this form of distributive justice for patients with chemical dependencies; treatment and societal reintegration. The most effective penance is making these men ambassadors of reform.

The restorative approach provides a long-term solution – though the self-declared Islamic State may soon suffer defeat, their radical approach to change-making will continue as it has throughout history – by criminalizing the undergirding construct rather than its predisposed victims. Therein, this ruling can set a precedent and has the potential to be a landmark case in addressing extremism.

Thank you for your careful attention,

Ilhan Omar
State Representative-Elect – MN 60B

Omar’s letter is incomprehensible in part (“criminalizing the undergirding conduct rather than its predisposed victims,” for example), and application of “the restorative justice approach” remains mysterious, but we get the gist. Free the “Minnesota men”! Anoint them “ambassadors of reform.”

“Reform” what? If “the best deterrent to fanaticism is compassion,” everything is beautiful.

Omar’s letter is breathtaking in its presumption and arrogance, though we have grown accustomed to the approved euphemistic style. “The desire to commit violence” in the case of these nine men derived entirely from their devotion to Islam, as did their “systematic alienation” from the United States.

The curious case of Ilhan Omar — she and it are one hard case.

NOTE: Montemayor severely clips this quotable quote from the sentencing memorandum filed by the prosecution in the case of Guled Omar:

Respect for the law is a particularly important factor in this case. No trial in the aggregate memory of the U.S. Attorney’s Office has been conducted in more of an atmosphere of intimidation, harassment, and incipient violence than the trial of this case. The families of cooperating defendants were harassed in the courtroom, in full view of the testifying witness; there was a fistfight in the corridor outside the courtroom; multiple individuals had to be ejected from the courtroom for not following the Court’s rules of behavior. A stern sentence is needed to promote respect for the law, to demonstrate clearly that this is a nation of laws.

* * * * *

As the Court witnessed in the Courtroom and surrounding press coverage, despite the gravity of the charges, the defendants had significant community support.

There is a story here for anyone with eyes to see, but you won’t find it in the newspaper of record in the Twin Cities.

CORRECTION: In the original version of this post, I wrote that Montemayor had interviewed Judge Davis. After inquiry to Judge Davis’s office this morning, I have been apprised that Judge Davis was not interviewed by Montemayor. Judge Davis has decliend all media requests for interviews about the case and sentencing issues (including three of mine). Judge Davis’s office tells me that the quotes of Judge Davis in Montemauyor’s article are all drawn from previous hearings. I regret the error.

Montemayor’s article in fact refers to an interview with the judge. I assume it refers to the press gathering Judge Davis called to announced his appointment of a German social scientist to prepare presentence reports on the six defendant who pleaded guilty, a development I reported on in the Weekly Standard article “Judging the ‘Minnesota men.'”

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