Feeding Our Future trial: the jury is out and the defendants are in…custody

The end of Monday’s free-food trial session was as dramatic as its early morning beginning.

Monday morning, I wrote about the revelation that Sunday night, a Somali woman visited the Spring Lake Park home of Juror #52 in the case. The woman referred to the juror by name and left behind a gift bag containing $120,000 in cash. The juror was not home at the time, but the mysterious woman informed the juror’s father-in-law that a second bag would be forthcoming should the juror vote for an acquittal. When the juror did arrive home, she (the juror) called 911.

Names of the jury have never been made public, except to the principals inside the courtroom. Juror addresses were never provided to anyone.

From the FBI search warrant filed in the case on Monday (read it here), a gift delivered with flowers and butterflies,

Hallmark motto, “When you care enough to send the very best.” As seen in the Hollywood movie Jackie Brown,

The jury was told, just last week, by University of Minnesota Law/Business professor Paul Vaaler (JD/Ph.D.) that “Cash is King!”

Large denomination bills.

As Mr. Warren Zevon once advised, “Send lawyers, guns, and money!”

The judge dismissed Juror #52 from the case and sequestered the remaining jurors for the duration of the trial. Jurors in the back row moved over one slot to fill the now-empty chair.

[Update: a second juror (#22) was excused Tuesday from the trial after hearing about the bribery attempt. An alternate juror was recalled to replace her. Deliberations have resumed.]

The trial then resumed mid-morning on Monday with closing statements from defense counsel on behalf of two additional defendants.

I arrived in time for the afternoon session. We heard from the lawyer for the seventh and final defendant in this case, Hayat Nur, Defendant No. 22. She is the slightly older sister of the group’s youngest defendant, Abdimajid Nur, No. 20.

As with her brother’s lawyer, Hayat’s counsel portrayed her as an unwitting dupe, a data-entry clerk “just following orders” from those higher up in the scheme. A small fish that the jury should just throw back in the water.

Then the prosecution delivered their rebuttal to the more than 8 hours of defense closing statements spread over Friday and Monday.

After a break, the judge issued the jury its instructions, reading the details of the 43 separate charges against the group of seven. That process took over 90 minutes.

After the alternates were dismissed, the jury was sent off for deliberations and sequestration, the judge held a hearing on the prosecution’s motion to take all seven defendants into custody.

The prosecution argued on grounds of both flight risk and threat to public safety that the defendants should be placed into custody for the duration of the jury’s deliberations. The court later confirmed that all seven defendants were born abroad.

Each defense lawyer stood up, expressed appropriate outrage at Sunday night’s alleged events, and proceeded to assure the judge that their client couldn’t possibly be involved.

Counsel for Defendant No. 16, Mohamed Ismail, informed that his client was already wearing a GPS ankle monitor, owing to his previous conviction for passport fraud and a failed attempt to flee the country.

Speaking of Abdimajid Nur, his lawyer informed that Nur’s wife was allowed to immigrate to America only after her husband had been indicted or multiple felonies in the case.

True, at this early stage, evidence doesn’t point to any defendant in particular, or any at all. At least one defense lawyer compared the prospect of jailing all seven Somali defendants as similar to the internment during WWII of ethnic Japanese civilians. Subtle, they aren’t.

I mentioned earlier that the seven defendants were ordered to surrender their cell phones, placed on “airplane mode.” Only one defendant followed the judge’s clear instruction. The other six all shut their phones off, locking the contents. During a break, the phones were brought back into the courtroom, where one-by-one the defendants had to unlock their phones to comply with the now-issued search warrants.

After a short deliberation, the judge re-emerged to rule in favor of the prosecution. A squad of U.S. Marshals, clad in trademarked windbreakers, emerged from the back of the room to confiscate belts and place the defendants in plastic, zip-tie-style handcuffs. The defendants, six men and one woman, were led out a side door.

The seven defendants were booked into Sherburne County jail for safekeeping. Current mugshots on file for each:

A roundup on the media coverage:

A second juror is dismissed from Feeding Our Future trial | kare11.com

Feeding Our Future juror bribed with $120K, defendants arrested (sahanjournal.com)

A second juror in Feeding Our Future trial excused after hearing about attempted bribe (startribune.com)

Juror in Feeding Our Future trial excused after woman offers bag of $120,000 in cash to acquit defendants (startribune.com)

Feeding Our Future trial: Closing arguments overshadowed by bag of cash given to juror • Minnesota Reformer

At the Feeding our Fraud trial: Let the credit go | Power Line (powerlineblog.com)

The recent developments have made national and international news:

Juror in Charity Fraud Case Received Bag With $120,000 – The New York Times (nytimes.com)

Juror in fraud case has $120,000 bribe delivered to her door (nypost.com)

Juror trying seven Somali migrants accused of swindling $40M in COVID funds is given huge bag of cash by woman who turned up at his doorstep with shocking request | Daily Mail Online

Juror in COVID fraud case dismissed after getting bag of $120,000 cash (usatoday.com)

Juror in charity fraud trial reveals she was given bag of $120k cash to acquit defendants | The Independent

We now await the verdict.