Iraqi immigrant's fate in rape case is in jury's hands

Lance benzel The Gazette - Updated: June 13, 2013 at 7:41 pm • Published: June 13, 2013 | 5:45 pm

An El Paso County jury will begin deliberations Friday at the trial of one of five Iraqi immigrants accused of playing a role in a brutal sexual assault that put a Colorado Springs woman's life in jeopardy.

Closing arguments at the trial of Sarmad Fadhi "Levi" Mohammed wrapped up Thursday afternoon, but because one juror lives near the growing Black Forest Fire on the city's north side, the panel was sent home early.

The jury is slated to return at 8:30 a.m. Friday.

Mohammed, 26, is charged with sexual assault, accessory to sexual assault and false reporting. If convicted, he faces the potential of life in prison.

The victim, a woman in her 50s, was violated with such force that she required immediate surgery that temporarily left her with a colostomy bag. An emergency room doctor testified that she could have died without intervention. The Gazette generally withholds the names of those alleging sexual assault.

Although Mohammed isn't accused of injuring her, prosecutors allege that he forced his genitals into the woman's mouth while she was being violated by a man who inserted his hand in her rectum.

The assault is alleged to have occurred in the early morning hours of July 22, 2012, at a westside apartment where Mohammed lived with several roommates. All five men charged in the attack were brought to the U.S. with the help of military members after serving as translators and intelligence assets for U.S. troops stationed in the men's native Iraq, according to their attorneys.

The woman, who lived in the same apartment complex, told authorities she met the men that night as they quarreled with a group of Fort Carson soldiers in the complex's common area. After intervening on their behalf, she ended up accompanying them back to their apartment, she said.

During closing arguments Thursday, prosecutors said things got out of control when Ramadon supplied the woman with alcohol and began making unwanted advances.

Although the woman repeatedly said "no," and asked for help, 21-year-old Jasim Mohammed Hasin Ramadon performed oral sex on her before forcing her onto the floor, where he is alleged to have penetrated her rectum with his entire hand, within view of the others.

The woman was likely too drunk to resist or flee, said prosecutor Kelson Castain, who called the assault "horrific" and "unimaginable."

In denying that Mohammed made contact with the woman, defense attorney Cynthia McKedy attacked the thoroughness of the police investigation and said prosecutors lacked forensic evidence and were instead relying on comments one of Mohammed's roommates made to police during what she characterized as a coercive interview.

She said Yasir Jabbar "Mike" Jasim merely said it was "possible" that Mohammed put his genitals in her mouth, and only because he felt threatened by a police detective who was playing with a role of tape - an instrument of torture used by Iraqi police under the reign of Saddam Hussein.

McKedy accused the victim of trying to hide details about how much she drank. The woman says she blacked out after sipping from a drink Ramadon supplied her - suggesting she was drugged - but that claim wasn't supported by blood tests, McKedy said.

The defense also accused the victim of exaggerating her role in breaking up the fight between the Iraqis and Fort Carson soldiers, among other details.

"If you can't believe what happened before, how can you believe what happened in that apartment?" McKedy asked.

Attorneys also sparred over whether Mohammed was guilty of trying to help Ramadon evade police by telling them a false story that he wasn't at the apartment that night. McKedy said Mohammed told the truth within 10 minutes of learning of the extent of the woman's injuries, saying, "I can't live with this in my heart."

Castain countered that it violated common sense to suggest Mohammed didn't realize the woman was injured when he saw blood on fecal matter on Ramadon's hand and later heard the man that he might have killed the woman.

He claimed Mohammed changed his tune only after realizing police were at his apartment, searching for evidence.

Ramadon is awaiting trial while the Colorado Court of Appeals considers an appeal filed by prosecutors seeking to overturn a ruling by 4th Judicial District Judge Theresa Cisneros, who tossed out videotaped statements by Ramadon that she ruled were inappropriately obtained by Colorado Springs police.

According to pretrial hearings, Ramadon appeared poised to blame Mohammed for inflicting the injuries.

Three other men accused of perpetuating a cover story to protect Ramadon have since been convicted of misdemeanors - one after a partial mistrial, two as a result of plea bargains.

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