After Six Years, All Charges Dropped Against 'Somali Sex-Trafficking Gang' That Wasn't

Some defendants spent years behind bars awaiting trial for crimes that never happened. Whoops! But don't expect cops or prosecutors to face any consequences.

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Heather Weyker/Facebook

Federal prosecutors in Nashville announced this week that all charges related to an alleged Somali sex-trafficking ring had been dropped. The decision to drop the charges against 16 remaining defendants comes in the wake of a federal appeals court ruling that three men previously prosecuted as part of the case had been wrongly convicted, owing to the fact that the entire case was a sham.

"We've conducted a thorough review of the 6th Circuit's recent opinions and … after much consideration, we have determined that the best course of action is to dismiss the charges against all remaining defendants," said David Boling, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney's office in Nashville. 

Some of the defendents—almost all young, Muslim immigrants from Somalia—have been in jail for years, despite not being convicted of a single sex crime.

As detailed by the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, prosecutors' case against these so-called sex traffickers was based entirely on the faulty testimony of two victims, both of whom were caught in multiple contradictions and lies, and of a Minnesota police officer who was also found to be fabricating facts. And though the case had been billed and prosecuted as one of "child sex trafficking," one of the allegedly underage victims—intitially described as a 15-year-old—had a falsified birth certificate. It was determined likely that the "minor," Jane Doe 2, was actually 19-years-old during the time period in question. 

At every step of the case, however, red flags that should have given law enforcement pause were ignored or overlooked. Former-U.S. Attorney Todd Jones, then in Minnesota (where the bulk of the alleged activity had taken place), even declined to prosecute the case based on concerns about its quality. But because several of the alleged sex-trafficking incidents had happened in Tennessee, federal agents were able to take the case to trial in Nashville, where a jury acquitted six defendants and convicted three. A trial judge subsequently acquitted these three defendants, but federal prosecutors appealed. 

In the wake of the appeals court's ruling, St. Paul police Sgt. Heather Weyker—deteremined to have "likely exaggerated or fabricated important aspects" of Jane Doe 2's story, to have lied to the grand jury, and to have lied on an application to a victim's compensation fund—was placed on paid leave from the St. Paul Police Department. A spokesman said an internal affairs investigation had been completed, and she was now back on duty, although country prosecutors are taking a second look at other cases she has worked on. 

Maki Haberfeld, a professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, called Weyker's a case of "'noble cause' corruption"—a situation "in which police officers are tempted to fabricate facts in order to move their case forward, because if they don't, then an otherwise guilty person" might go free. "We see this in police culture very frequently," Haberfeld told the Duluth News Tribune

As a member of a Justice Department human-trafficking task force, Weyker was likely primed by her experience to see sex trafficking where there was none, if not outright encouraged by colleagues to take a broad view of it. But while she's the only one accused of direct corruption in this case, she was far from the only one intimately involved. Officials from the Department of Homeland Security, the FBI, and the Nashville Attorney General's office all worked on the investigation and prosecution, even after finding out facts such as the faked birth certificate and adult status of their star "child victim."

"The (St. Paul police) chief was told numerous times what a great job she was doing," Steve Linders, a spokesman for the St. Paul Police Department, told the Tribune. "So the chief is curious how one officer working so closely with a federal agency can be solely responsible for a case of this magnitude falling apart."

That one seems pretty easy: she's the lowest on the totem pole here. By focusing on the role Weyker played in corrupting the case, along with the troubled status of the two teen accusers (one of whom is described in court documents as having significant, untreated mental health problems of an unspecified variety), federal agents can distance themselves from their active and ongoing participation in the investigation and prosecution of this case. As the six-year saga comes to a close, it looks like no one in government will actually pay for feeding anti-immigrant sentiment and sex-trafficking hysteria while wasting an untold fortune in public money and upending the lives of over two dozen men of color. 

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  1. a case of “‘noble cause’ corruption”?a situation “in which police officers are tempted to fabricate facts in order to move their case forward, because if they don’t, then an otherwise guilty person” might go free. “We see this in police culture very frequently,”

    They had good intentions. That’s all that matters.

    Seriously though, it is routine for cops to omit, exaggerate, and fabricate information in their reports and testimony. Force and fraud is their stock-in-trade. And why shouldn’t they lie about everything? It’s not like they ever face any consequences for their illegal actions.

    1. She needs to go to prison for a few years.

    2. 20 years of being a slave-miner on the moon of Triton as a mandatory minimum for police breaking any and all rules would sort this out in no time. It’s sad that Judge Dredd’s system is looking less authoritarian to me at the moment.

    3. What amazes me is how many people think that they don’t routinely do those things. It’s not too hard to find an ex-cop who will tell you that that is exactly how they operate. There’s even a word for when they do it in court: “testilying”.

      1. Thing is, I honestly believe most people wouldn’t care. After all, cops only go after bad guys, right? So why not embellish a bit if it means putting a bad guy in jail?

        1. then an otherwise guilty person might go free

          See, they know who’s guilty and who’s not. Don’t you trust their judgment? The whole “proving” part is just an obstacle written by dead white men that lets criminals stay on the streets. Why do you love the criminals and hate the children who will be their victims?

  2. “Former-U.S. Attorney Todd Jones, then in Minnesota (where the bulk of the alleged activity had taken place), even declined to prosecute the case based on concerns about its quality.”

    Well, there was one guy in this story who wasn’t a shithead at least.

    1. And, of course, he’s no longer a US Attorney.

  3. determined to have “likely exaggerated or fabricated important aspects” of Jane Doe 2’s story, to have lied to the grand jury, and to have lied on an application to a victim’s compensation fund?was placed on paid leave from the St. Paul Police Department. A spokesman said an internal affairs investigation had been completed, and she was now back on duty

    HIGHER. STANDARDS.

    1. NEW PROFESSIONALISM

      1. TOTALITY OF THE MUTHAFUCKIN’ CIRCS

  4. So, what happened to giving false accusers the same penalty they sought for the accused?

  5. “…and of a Minnesota police officer who was also found to be fabricating facts.”

    UNPOSSIBLE.

  6. Any word yet on whether the 19-year-old’s parents will be prosecuted for her kidnapping and imprisonment, along with the LEOs who assisted in these crimes?

  7. Q: Has there ever been actual evidence for a Rochdale- or Rotherham-style sex trafficking ring in US Muslim populations? I don’t believe there has been; if so I wonder if this is another data point for the notion that US Muslims are better behaved than European Muslims.

    And of course, I am duty-bound by Article 378 of the Reason Yokeltarian Commenter Code to point out that the many articles about this false positive far outweigh the near-absence of attention that Reason placed on the Rotherham sex trafficking ring in the UK.

    1. It could well be that there are actual verified cases of sex trafficking, which went on while the govt was prosecuting this…sketchy case.

      1. But “first do no harm.” Likewise, “first don’t charge innocent people, then you can get to the part where you prosecute the guilty.”

    2. The “many” articles? Have there been more than two?

    3. Britain’s Muslims are primarily Deobandi, the same sect as the Taliban. It’s one reason that Muslims in Britain seem to be more radical then Muslims in the US. Another reason is that the Brits suck at assimilation, whereas America is largely better at bringing people into the overall culture.

      1. It’s also that UK Muslims historically came from all classes, rather than educated, upper crust like a lot of (NOT ALL YES) US Muslims, because they had easier time immigrating with all post-Empire stupidity. Then there were family reunification schemes, importing people from poor areas of Pakistan/Bangladesh to ensure son/daughters don’t get corrupted by the kuffar.

        Wiki tells me US has fewer Muslims than UK (1.3 Milliion or 0.6% of population vs 1.6 million or 2.7%) so yeah, congrats – your immigration system picked better people than UK one.

        1. Our Somalis are the exception to the “more educated than normal” rule for US muslims.

          The good news is that they are quickly becoming educated in the ways of our country. I think every third Somali has gotten a govt grant to start some Somali outreach group. When something bad happens involving a Somali here (like some white, lutheran, patriarch trying to tell a Somali cashier in Target that she has to scan bacon as part of her job), all these groups come out in droves to protest. It is almost like an infinite number of Judean People’s Front.

          1. Yeah, I was talking historically. I do remember, about 15 or so years ago, when I was still a relative newcomer to Canada, breathlessly enthusiastic State Broadcaster report about Somalis being settled in Edmonton as a group of 400, so they could set up their own insta-community and going “Huh, that seems a bad idea to me, and I got here to get the fuck away from Yugoslav Civil War.” But hey, hard to give up on block voting.

  8. It’s a Minnesota thing. Back about 1983, a whack job prosecutor named Kathleen Morris incited a meritless witch hunt for a non-existent ring of child abusers in the town of Jordan, MN. She assembled a charlatan circus of recovered memory “experts” and other quacks who got children to fabricate absolutely loony tales of imaginary things done to them. It was an appalling fiasco that wrecked a lot of lives.

  9. Q: Has there ever been actual evidence for a Rochdale- or Rotherham-style sex trafficking ring in US Muslim populations?

    I hope not.

    1. I meant I hope that that has never happened in the US.

      1. I’m sure it *could,* but that doesn’t show one way or another whether it *did.*

      2. I don’t think so, either — and I hope it never does. If that perception is accurate, does that mean that we are really good at attracting quality immigrants, that we assimilate better, or what?

        1. I think it’s a bit of both. Pan Zaglobia gets a lot of it right above, I think. Most Muslim immigrants to the US come to work, and do. In the UK and other parts of Europe, it’s a bit different. I think they could get rid of a lot of their problem with immigrants if they would stop with the generous welfare benefits. Immigrants that come to work and start businesses are pretty unlikely to cause trouble which would be bad for business.

    2. I’ve said it before, but US Muslims tend to come from more liberal Muslim populations than European Muslims. We have lots of Muslims who came here when they fled the overthrow of the Shah in Iran in the late 70’s. Those people are not exactly pro-Islamist. Lots of Pakistani doctors come here too, as opposed to the people from tribal Pakistan who move to Britain and have caused the problems.

      1. True, but that’s also broadly true of Muslim immigrants to Europe. Turkish immigrants to Germany were generally among the most secular of the Turks; Algerian immigrants to France were by and large Francophiles or at least more disposed towards secularism than other Muslims, and came from a country with fairly secular institutions and public culture. Besides, the Muslim world at large was a much more secular place from the 50s-70s; the number of yearly pilgrims of the hajj has grown 20-fold over the past 60 years, and Islam in general has a much more prominent place in politics than it did when Nasserism and socialism were the predominant currents of politics in the region.

        Besides, there are plenty of Muslims in the US who don’t come from secular or Enlightened parts of the Islamic world — Somalis and Sudanese Muslims, for example.

        So I don’t think that particularly explains why Europe’s Muslim population seems to be so much more violent and psychotic than our own.

        1. “True, but that’s also broadly true of Muslim immigrants to Europe. Turkish immigrants to Germany were generally among the most secular of the Turks”

          Turkish immigrants to Germany also haven’t caused any problems and are a pretty well integrated community within Germany.

          It’s not like the Cologne molesters were Turks whose families went back 3 generations.

          1. That’s a good point. Anecdotally, when I was in Stuttgart the near-ghettoes the Turkish immigrant population was made to live in were a fucking disgrace. Haven’t seen anything like it for immigrants in the US. Other points in favor would be the well-integrated ethnically Chinese Muslim population in China.

            Counterpoint would be Algerians in France and Moroccans in Spain, I’d think — though France at least is notoriously difficult to assimilate into in some ways.

            1. France at least is notoriously difficult to assimilate into in some ways

              Eh, Sarkozy is a son of Hungarian aristocrat and Half-Greek whose father was a converted Jew, and he was a president. To integrate into French society – speak French, have a French name, eat cheese, drink wine, do well in school, don’t be religious. Yeah it won’t be easy. It’s the same shit deal Chinese immigrants got in Canada. You won’t be accepted as native, your child will be 50-50 but keep it up and by third generation only racists care.

        2. the number of yearly pilgrims of the hajj has grown 20-fold over the past 60 years

          I wonder how much of that has to do with people being more religious and how much is because people are richer and travel is cheaper.

      2. Actually, I looked at Wikipedia, and a lot (like, at least nearly half) of Americans of Iranian descent are not muslim (irreligious, Christian, Zoroastrian etc). Because such people would have been the first to know to GTFO, and would have had the funds and connections to do it with.

        1. Same with Egyptian and Palestinian immigrants to the US. In general Middle Eastern immigration to the US selects for non-majority faith.

  10. On a related note, I watched half of an episode of Law & Order: SVU last night with my girlfriend’s roommate. It really is one of the most shocking examples in popular culture of “run roughshod over your civil rights without any lube and don’t so much as even give me cab fare” as you can witness.

    1. The only show that I’ve ever hate-watched, simply to see how much loathing I could get out of it. They are the dirtiest cops I’ve ever seen portrayed in media. They make all defense attorneys and internal investigations officers into mustache twirling villains, they repeatedly break the law or overlook the law being broken, they never suffer any real consequences for breaking the law (other than a few episodes where the internal investigation villains come in, try, and fail to hold them accountable to the law), and they eat their District Attorneys alive.

      Watching the character arcs of the District Attorney characters is a fascinating kind of horrible. New DAs are introduced after the fall of an old DA. The DA usually begins portrayed as a stuffy bureaucrat, getting in the cops way by insisting they follow rules and procedures and (gasp) obey the law. Then, over time, you see the DA slip as the cops assert themselves. The DA becomes more and more lenient, soon pretending not to notice people breaking the law, or declaring that “I didn’t hear that”. After a while, the DA will themselves begin OPENLY BREAKING THE LAW to help the cops. It usually ends with the DA disgracing themselves in such a way that they are eiter disbarred or they resign. Then a new DA is hired, and the cycle repeats. It’s a fascinating story of the repeated fall of man through corruption.

      1. And, of course, this would all be tolerable, in a Breaking Bad sort of way, if the show didn’t unapologetically try to assert that the dirty cops are the heroes and expect us to side with them at every broken law.

        1. Hmm.

          [sketches outline of new drama: “Copping Bad”

          1. “A Randy Balko Production, starring John Stossel!”

  11. As the six-year saga comes to a close, it looks like no one in government will actually pay for feeding anti-immigrant sentiment and sex-trafficking hysteria while wasting an untold fortune in public money and upending the lives of over two dozen men of color

    Q Part Deux:
    Do we have evidence that the police misconduct in this case was racially motivated? I ask because I can list any number of allegations of sexual abuse of children that have been handled similarly, and I would like to know if the “people of color” bit is actually relevant in any way to how this case was prosecuted instead of simply assuming that Teh Racisms are responsible.

    (Particularly important given that we have at least two incidents in the UK where appropriate action *wasn’t* taken because of a belief that the department would look “racist” — so yes, mislabelling inappropriate police conduct as racism does have negative consequences.)

    1. Regardless of color, this is a travesty of justice and that is how it should be treated. The racial identities do not matter.

      Oh I’m sorry, I forgot I live in the 19th 21st century. Skin color is all that matters.

    2. I think it is equally likely that it was racially motivated as it was spurred on by the hysterical panic over Sexy Traffic.

    3. Meh. The only way you can get liberals to pay attention to gross injustices in the law is to point out the skin shade of the victim. At this point in time I’ll accept lines like that as a necessary evil to get the story any attention among leftists whatsoever.

      1. The only problem with it is they still miss the point, so the abuses continue apace.

    4. upending the lives of over two dozen men of color

      There. Much better.

    5. Particularly important given that we have at least two incidents in the UK

      I know you said “at least” but yeah, there’s a few more. Here’s a Wiki link because there’s more than 2 (3?) Reason link limit.

      From Oxford ring page, for quick list:

      As in the similar Rochdale, Rotherham, Derby and Telford prosecutions, all gang members were from Muslim backgrounds, and the girls were white, leading to renewed discussion as to whether the crimes were racially motivated and whether the initial failure to investigate them was linked to the authorities’ fear of being accused of racism.

      1. In fairness, Britain has a long history of child molestation getting covered up by authority figures.

        Maybe these child molestation rings are actually an example of immigrants integrating into Britain’s traditional culture of under-the-table pederasty.

        1. That part is kind of funny. It only came out after these other sex rings came to light, and there were very energetic movements in that direction that to me smelled of “well, 2.6% might do it, but so do the Tories!”
          And if the Culturally Diverse people raped mostly their own, I’d see the similarity.

        2. I bet a lot of places share that kind of history. It’s becoming more and more clear that the Catholic Church has done it in many different countries for a long time. (And I don’t see a whole lot of people complaining about lack of coverage of that mess.)

    6. I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if racial bias played a role. But the stupid satanic child abuse panics of the 80s were focused on white people who got just as shafted as these people have been. So the race angle really isn’t the main thing in any case. The problem is that no one stops these lousy cases from continuing.

  12. Federal prosecutors in Nashville announced this week that all charges related to an alleged Somali sex-trafficking ring had been dropped.

    Since it involved “trafficking” which is the tweet-trend hashtag thingy of the new Millennium, shouldn’t we be extra-cautious?

    #BringBackOurTrafficking

  13. was placed on paid leave from the St. Paul Police Department. A spokesman said an internal affairs investigation had been completed, and she was now back on duty, although country prosecutors are taking a second look at other cases she has worked on.

    Why would she be treated differently than her male counterparts?

    1. Paid leave, back on duty, in spite of falsifying reports in order to put people in jail.

      Yeah, that’ll learn her.

  14. Good thing you took the time to publish this before getting this piece posted. Priorities!

  15. http://purfekstorm.com/wp-cont…..cnutty.jpg

    Jimmy McNulty is not amused…

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