January 15, 2013

Portland rape suspect agrees to be tried as an adult

Since Mohammed Mukhtar was arrested, the case has yo-yoed between juvenile and adult court.

By Scott Dolan sdolan@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

PORTLAND – A Portland teenager who fought efforts to prosecute him as an adult for allegedly breaking into the room of a woman and raping her last year, gave up his fight Monday and will be tried as an adult.

click image to enlarge

Mohammed Mukhtar

Tim Greenway / Staff Photographer

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Tim Greenway/Staff Photographer: Mohammed Mukhtar's defense attorney Jonathan Berry talks with his client during a juvenile court hearing on whether to prosecute Mukhtar as an adult or a juvenile in the Cumberland County Unified Criminal Court in Portland on Monday afternoon January 14, 2013. Mukhtar is accused of breaking into a stranger's apartment and raping a woman as she slept.

Tim Greenway

Additional Photos Below

Mohammed Mukhtar, now 18 by all accounts, appeared in a juvenile proceeding in Cumberland County Unified Criminal for what was supposed to be the third day of a four-day hearing that started in November.

But he withdrew his application to fight prosecutors' motions Monday afternoon after only two witnesses had testified.

Since Mukhtar was first arrested on May 26, the case against him has yo-yoed back and forth between juvenile and adult court.

He was first charged as an adult, when Portland police used the birthday he gave them: Jan. 1, 1994.

Mukhtar admits, in a video taken of him at the Portland Police Department just before his arrest, that he broke into the 50-year-old woman's apartment on High Street, took off his shorts and underwear and put on a condom.

He denied raping her.

After his arrest, Mukhtar's attorney, Jonathan Berry, successfully argued that Mukhtar had been assigned the Jan. 1 birthday when he came to the U.S. as a refugee from Somalia and that his actual birthday is Oct. 25, 1994, making him a juvenile at the time of his arrest.

The case was then returned to juvenile court, where Assistant District Attorney Christine Thibeault filed a motion seeking to prosecute Mukhtar as an adult, as allowed in felony cases, though the court views him as a juvenile.

In the first phase of the hearing in November, Judge Richard Mulhern ruled that prosecutors had demonstrated probable cause for the charges against Mukhtar -- gross sexual assault, burglary and trespassing.

In the second phase, the judge had to consider four factors in deciding whether to bind the case over to adult court: the seriousness of the offense, the characteristics of the juvenile involved, public safety and whether there are adequate sanctions in the juvenile system.

The first witness in Monday's hearing, Portland Police Detective Maryann Bailey, showed a video of Mukhtar breaking into the boarding house where the alleged rape took place.

The second witness was Portland Police Officer Coreena Behnke, a school resource officer assigned to Portland High School where Mukhtar was a student.

She documented 17 different occasions during which Portland police had contact with Mukhtar.

A South Portland police officer, a juvenile corrections officer and others were also scheduled to testify at Monday's hearing, but Thibeault and Berry met with the judge behind closed doors, and Mukhtar withdrew his opposition to Thibeault's motion.

"It's a culmination of parties all coming together in ongoing negotiations and conversation trying to achieve the right results for all the involved parties," Berry said.

Mulhern remanded Mukhtar to a juvenile detention facility until an order can be drafted transferring the charges.

"Once the judge signs the order, the juvenile court has waived its jurisdiction," Thibeault said.

"The case doesn't change at all; it will just be in a different court."

Though the case against Mukhtar won't change, the potential penalty in adult court is much stiffer.

If convicted as a juvenile, he would serve no more than three years in juvenile detention.

As an adult, Mukhtar faces 20 years in prison.

 

Staff Writer Scott Dolan can be contacted at: 791-6304 or at

sdolan@mainetoday.com

 

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Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

Tim Greenway/Staff Photographer: Mohammed Mukhtar is led away from the Cumberland County Courthouse after a juvenile court hearing on whether to prosecute Mukhtar as an adult or a juvenile in Portland on Monday afternoon January 14, 2013. Mukhtar is accused of breaking into a stranger's apartment and raping a woman as she slept.

Tim Greenway

  


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