June 19, 2013

Plea deals offered to two men in Portland gang rape case

Unable to locate the alleged victim, a prosecutor reduces the charges even though it 'sickens' her, she says.

By Scott Dolan sdolan@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND – Prosecutors in the case against two Portland men accused of gang raping a woman at gunpoint last summer have been unable to find the woman since she moved out of state and have offered plea agreements to both men.

click image to enlarge

In this March 12, 2013 file photo, Mohammed Abdi with his attorney Clifford Strike. Prosecutors in the case against two Portland men accused of gang raping a woman at gunpoint last summer have been unable to find the woman since she moved out of state and have offered plea agreements to both men.

John Patriquin / Staff Photographer

Mohammed Abdi accepted a plea agreement Wednesday in Cumberland County Unified Criminal Court, pleading guilty to a misdemeanor assault charge in exchange for dismissal of felony charges of kidnapping and gross sexual assault, each punishable by as much as 30 years in prison.

Francis Mezan, who was indicted recently on charges in a gang-rape case from 2009, declined a plea agreement in the more recent case and is scheduled to return to court Monday for jury selection.

Portland police linked Abdi and Mezan to the alleged gang rape on July 26, 2012, by matching their DNA profiles to swabs taken from the victim, according to court records.

Police then saw similarities between that incident and a case in 2009 in which another woman was sexually assaulted by multiple men who threatened her with a gun. Investigators matched Mezan's DNA profile to samples taken from the woman in 2009, Deputy District Attorney Megan Elam said in court Wednesday.

Abdi and Mezan, both 23, have multiple open criminal cases, and the plea deals offered by Elam would have settled all of those cases.

In accepting his offer, Abdi pleaded guilty to charges from four cases:

• The misdemeanor assault charge from last year's alleged gang rape.

• A misdemeanor assault charge from the alleged gang rape in 2009, though Abdi was never charged with sexual assault in that case.

• A charge of driving with a suspended license last year.

• A charge of felony assault on a correctional officer last month at the Cumberland County Jail.

Justice Roland Cole sentenced Abdi to serve one year in jail for the misdemeanors followed by a deferred disposition on the felony assault on the jail guard. If Abdi stays out of trouble for two years after being released from jail, the felony charge will be reduced to a misdemeanor. If he fails, he will face another year in jail.

The deferred disposition also carries an unusual order, banning Abdi from Maine for those two years.

"This is a disposition that sickens me, given what I know about the crimes that were committed," Elam said. "I think it's a very advantageous disposition for Mr. Abdi."

Abdi's attorney, Clifford Strike, said Abdi never pursued a plea deal and intended to stand trial on the basis that the sex was consensual.

"He denied from the start that it was non-consensual," Strike said. "There was plenty of motive for her to be upset and come up with this fish story."

Elam offered Mezan three years in prison if he pleaded guilty to kidnapping in both gang-rape cases and served 44 months in prison for violating his probation from a prior conviction for criminal threatening with a gun.

The prosecution's case is outlined in an affidavit filed by Portland Detective Maryann Bailey.

On July 26 of last year, a 32-year-old woman who lived in Buxton visited Portland for a night out with a friend and met Abdi and five men with him in the Deering Oaks area, Bailey said in the affidavit.

The woman told police that she got into a fight with her friend after midnight and called one of the men to ask for a ride home to Buxton.

After the woman got into an SUV with the men, they drove her to the Sagamore Village housing development and walked her to the nearby grounds of Hall Elementary School, according to the police affidavit.

(Continued on page 2)

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