Police Abuse

A Federal Cop Devised a Bogus Sex Trafficking Ring and Jailed This Teen for 2 Years. The Cop Can't Be Sued.

The most powerful officers are held to the lowest standard of accountability.

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For years, St. Paul police officer Heather Weyker was swamped. She gathered evidence, cultivated witnesses, filled out the police reports, testified under oath—all in connection with an interstate sex trafficking ring run by Somali refugees. But perhaps most impressive is that she did all that while fabricating the same ring she was investigating, which resulted in 30 indictments, 9 trials, and 0 convictions.

Hamdi Mohamud, then a 16-year-old refugee from Somalia, found herself caught up in that scheme in 2011, when one of Weyker's witnesses, Muna Abdulkadir, tried to attack her and her friends at knifepoint. Mohamud called the police, and Weyker intervened—on behalf of Abdulkadir. She arrested Mohamud and her friends for allegedly tampering with a federal witness, and Mohamud subsequently spent two years in jail before the trumped-up charges were dismissed.

While Mohamud lost those two years of her life, Weyker has not paid any price—not in spite of her position, but because of it. Since the officer conducted her investigation as part of a federal task force, she is entitled to absolute immunity and cannot be sued, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 8th Circuit ruled last year.

It's not because the "sex trafficking" investigation—which consisted of Weyker conjuring fake information, editing police reports, fabricating evidence, and lying under oath, among other things—was legitimate. On the contrary, the court says it was "plagued with problems from the start" and notes that Weyker employed "lies and manipulation" to put people behind bars. Legally speaking, none of that matters.

What does matter is a line of Supreme Court jurisprudence that has made suing a rights-violating federal officer almost out of the question. Had Weyker acted in her capacity as a state or local cop, Mohamud would have been permitted to bring her claim before a jury of her peers. Yet the most powerful officers are held to the lowest standard of accountability.

Mohamud hopes to change that standard by asking the Supreme Court to hear her case, which she made official last week.

The problem here isn't qualified immunity, the doctrine that shields police officers and other state actors from federal civil suits unless the way the government violated your rights has been litigated almost exactly in a prior court precedent. That's an onerous standard to meet. It has, for example, protected two police officers who allegedly stole $225,000 while executing a search warrant, because no prior court ruling had said stealing in those circumstances is unconstitutional. The legal principle has been at the center of criminal justice reform efforts over the last year.

But Mohamud cleared that hurdle. The United States District Court for the District of Minnesota ruled that Weyker's actions so clearly made a mockery of the Constitution that she could not skirt the suit. The 8th Circuit then overturned that decision on appeal, citing Weyker's temporary federal badge, while in the same breath acknowledging the depravity of her actions.

"Qualified immunity makes it very, very difficult to sue government officials," says Patrick Jaicomo, an attorney at the Institute for Justice, the libertarian public interest law firm representing Mohamud. "This makes it impossible."

There's a Supreme Court decision that should, in theory, give Mohamud the avenue to redress she needs. In Bivens v. Six Unknown Named Agents of the Federal Bureau of Narcotics (1971), the high court allowed a victim to go before a jury after federal cops conducted a drug raid on his apartment without a warrant and later strip-searched him at the courthouse.

But since then the Court has undermined its own decision in almost comical ways. In 2017, the justices ruled in Ziglar v. Abbasi that lower courts should pinpoint "special factors counseling hesitation" when considering suits against federal cops. In practice, that has meant just about whatever a judge can cook up.

Yet even Abbasi notes that Bivens should be applied robustly for Fourth Amendment claims, and Mohamud's suit rests on the Fourth Amendment. That has been lost on the 8th Circuit.

"Bivens is actually a great decision," says Anya Bidwell, another attorney for Mohamud. "It does provide a cause of action for a violation of Fourth Amendment rights. We want Bivens to be interpreted robustly and allow individuals to seek damages for violations of constitutional rights."

Whether or not the Supreme Court will clarify its oscillating guidance remains to be seen. But last year the justices may have given a hint about where they're leaning when they unanimously ruled that a group of Muslim men should have the right to sue a group of federal cops who violated their religious freedom rights. Jaicomo distills Justice Clarence Thomas' opinion in that case down to its core: "He [essentially] says the availability of damages against federal officers is as old as the Republic itself."

A decade after wrongly losing the end of her teenage years in jail, Mohamud has not yet been able to make use of that lever against the perpetrator, who is still employed by the St. Paul Police Department. "It simply makes no sense that the Fourth Amendment applies with less rigor for someone who happens to work for the federal government," says Bidwell. "This is unsustainable. It just makes no sense."

NEXT: U.S. Is Becoming More Urban and More Ethnically Diverse, Says Census Bureau

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  1. Learning from the fbi I see

    1. Bad, the ground state of cops who think they are above the law, tends to get worse when their brothers before the bar defend them

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  2. Where again? Democrat run city.

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  3. When the courts deny justice, there is only one path left.

    1. Shoot ’em

  4. Hamdi Mohamud, then a 16-year-old Somali refugee, found herself caught up in that scheme in 2011, when one of Weyker’s witnesses, Muna Abdulkadir, tried to attack her and her friends at knifepoint.

    Why did a random “16-year-old Somali refugee” get randomly attacked by a witness to a sex ring investigation? Did they pick her out of the phone book?

    Why do I get the feeling we’re not getting the whole story?

    1. Because it’s reason, and their reporting has gotten less and less accurate in favor of narrarative building over the years.
      Seriously most of the brick bats now leave out all relavent information. It’s blindingly obvious there was a semblance of integrity reporting them in the long ago times

      1. I don’t trust Reason, but I trust IJ, and I hope they rip Weyker a new one.

    2. Not the whole story? I’m left feeling like we got hardly any of the story. Not even a link to more reporting to what the ever-loving fuck went on here. How exactly does a local cop get a gig to gin up allegations of a sex trafficking ring amond refugees? How’d she decide whom to accuse of what? What did her boss tell her to do? And most of all, WHY?!

    3. I now this is kinda hard to internalize, but it actually doesn’t matter at this stage. A QI dismissal is supposed to assume all facts in favor of the plantiff. So even if reason is leaving some things out, the court has ruled as of it is not, because it has ruled that the suit cannot continue even if everything the plantiff says is true.

      Go read the ruling linked above, and you’ll see. They start be discribing the case as presented above and don’t question that narrative.

  5. QI doesn’t protect from criminal charges so why hasn’t she been arrested and charged? Lying on police reports is a crime.

    1. That’s a rhetorical question, right?

  6. If I were falsely imprisoned for two years by someone who was immune to legal repercussions, they’d be facing extra-legal consequences.

    -jcr

    1. We, as a society, gave up on the notion of individually enforced justice to give more rights to the accused and to have a fairer, public system of punishment. However, if that system becomes perverted and does not create the justice we all crave, the end result will be the return to the “honor” and literal trial by combat / vigilanteism.

  7. It almost makes one want to find a small town police force that has no officers to get hired so that you could turn the tables on them. Become a small town cop, go shoot up the tormentor, claim QI. Just sayin’.

  8. So who knew that Stallone was in a scene from MASH? Or that Rick Springfield was in Battlestar Galactica? Life is weird.

    Oh this thing. America imported tons of Somalis, then wonders why they have problems. Culture is a bitch.

    1. “America imported tons of Somalis…”

      So, qualified immunity for oppressive, lying LEO pigs is something that we imported from Somalia? Are you SURE that it isn’t something that originates with both native main boot-licking, LEO-worshipping political parties and their voters, in the USA?

      You have any DATA to back up your opinion? Because the data that I read, says that qualified immunity comes primarily from USA courts and USA lawyers and power pigs!

    2. buckleup: You blame the Somalis for crimes committed _against_ them by our cops? Thank you for exposing your moral depravity.

      And I suspect you are another criminal cop.

  9. Reason has highlighted dozens/hundreds of bad cops, but still refuses to print anything criticizing (or even investigating) the murder of unarmed peaceful protester Ashli Babbitt by a Capitol Police Officer on Jan 6.

    Why the silence?

    1. Maybe because she was a trumpanzee gone apeshit, lusting after the demise of democracy? Breaking and entering where she had no right to be? Helping to cause the suicides of 4 traumatized DC cops? Injuring 100+ cops?

      https://www.nbcnews.com/news/us-news/third-d-c-officer-who-responded-capitol-riot-dies-suicide-n1275740

      Four officers who responded to Capitol riot have died by suicide
      More than 100 D.C. and Capitol police officers were injured defending the Capitol on Jan. 6.

      Had this been a BLM protest, you racist and fascist Trump-suckers would be wreaking another Tulsa massacre on black folks, wouldn’t ya?

      1. You need to shut your mouth, or come out from behind your computer so we can shut it for you.

        Your bullshit won’t be tolerated anymore.

  10. “More than 100 D.C. and Capitol police officers”

    Do you have a link to back any of this up? I haven’t heard of _any_ medical report showing any injury to cops more serious than inhaling a little pepper spray – which is most likely “friendly fire”.

    And if 4 cops felt so terrible about their actions on Jan 6 that they killed themselves, that’s on them.

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