Fifth “Minnesota man” pleads guilty

Adnan Farah is one of the ten “Minnesota men” charged with supporting ISIS and related offenses last year. On Thursday he joined four of his co-conspirators pleading guilty under a deal offered by prosecutors. Under the deal, Farah pleaded guilty to providing material support and resources to ISIS and the prosecutors agreed to drop the remaining charges against him.

Farah had originally rejected the deal at the urging of then defense team member Hassan Mohamud, a legal assistant in the office of P. Chinedu Nwaneri, an attorney who was co-counsel representing Farah’s brother, Mohamed Farah. It’s hard to keep the Muhammads straight without a scorecard.

Hassan Mohamud is a man of many hats. He’s an imam and local Somali Muslim “community leader.” Having attended William Mitchell College of Law in St. Paul, he taught Islamic Law as an adjunct member of the faculty. His work as a legal assistant in Nwaneri’s office suggests that he has never passed the bar exam.

SheikhHassan It turns out that Hassan Mohamud is the “Sheikh Hassan” who is mentioned on secret 2015 recordings that the government plans to use as evidence at trial against the remaining defendants. Sheikh Hassan is said to have taught one of the guys how to recite the prayer appropriate to jihad on the battlefield. He also meddled with co-defendants other than his client, seeking to persuade them to reject deals offered by the government. I wrote about the related proceedings before Judge Davis in “Sheikh Hassan’s retreat.” Thus the rationale for the prosecutors’ re-offering Farah the deal he previously rejected. The photo above shows Sheikh Hassan in happier days expounding on the cases for the press outside the courthouse.

I reviewed the plea agreement via the court’s case management/electronic case file system. Pages 2-4 of the agreement detail the underlying facts. Farah’s interest in joining ISIS extended from March 2014 through his arrest last year in April 2015. His efforts included discussions, planning and related activities with his fellow “Minnesota men” inspired to join the jihad.

Farah obtained a US passport on an expedited basis under false pretenses in April 2014. The passport, however, was intercepted by his parents. Farah and his “Minnesota men” friends participated in paintball sessions “that were intended as training for eventual combat in Syria” with ISIS.

In the winter and spring of 2015 they discussed “travel routes, means of financing travel, and the use of fraudulent travel documents…” Farah planned to travel from Minnesota to Mexico to obtain a fraudulent passport and then to fly overseas from Mexico to join ISIS. He came up with $100 as a downpayment on the false passport, but by this point his interlocutor had flipped and become a government source.

The agreement remains silent on details of interest unnecessary to the guilty plea. We can infer that Farah’s parents must have had a good idea that their son was up to no good whey they intercepted his American passport. We are left to wonder about Farah’s sources of cash. The status of the Mexico connection remains vague.

And don’t forget that Sheikh Hassan is still in business at the Minnesota Da’wah Institute. Reached by phone after Thursday’s plea hearing, Mohamud told the Star Tribune reporter that he has helped with “morale and financial support. As a Muslim imam, whenever the family has needed help, we support them.” We’re going to want to keep our eye on this particular “community leader.”

The Star Tribune reports on Thursday’s hearing on Farah’s guilty plea in “Twin Cities ISIL recruit takes late plea deal after new evidence emerges.” Mrs. Farah collapsed in court when she learned her son was pleading guilty. The Star Tribune reports via another “community leader” that Mrs. Farah “is recovering after her courtroom ordeal.”

As usual in these cases, the Minnesota Public Radio report by Mukhtar Ibrahim and Laura Yuen provides more on the hearing in the way of detail and color than the Star Tribune. Ibrahim and Yuen also have a good account of Hassan Muhammud’s role in the proceedings.

Farah joins the other “Minnesota men” who have pleaded guilty and await sentencing that is to be based in part on guidance rendered to the court by German social scientist Daniel Koehler. I believe that Koehler’s participation in the sentencing process is misguided and another reason to keep our attention focused on these cases. For more on Koehler’s involvement, please see my Weekly Standard article “Judging the ‘Minnesota men.'”

The cases against the four remaining defendants are set for a pretrial hearing on April 26 and for trial on May 9.