One of the young men charged in a triple homicide at a Minneapolis market pleaded guilty Tuesday to lesser charges in Hennepin County District Court.
Ahmed Abdi Ali, who was 17 at the time of the crime, will cooperate with the government against his alleged accomplice. In exchange for his cooperation, Ali will avoid a possible life sentence.
In the plea agreement, Ahmed Ali admits that he and co-defendant Mahdi Hassan Ali went to the Seward Market in Minneapolis on Jan. 6, and that they intended to rob the store. Ahmed said he knew his accomplice was carrying a gun and that the possibility of violence could end with someone dead.
Now, instead of facing three counts of first-degree murder, Ahmed Ali will serve up to 18 years in prison for three counts of attempted first-degree robbery.
Seward Market employees Mohamed Abdi Warfa and Osman Jama Elmi, as a customer, Anwar Salah, were killed at the market.
Outside the courtroom a man named Basha Salah, who identified himself as a relative of Anwar, said he hopes the plea will result in the conviction of the young man he believes pulled the trigger. Salah said he has no hard feelings against the young men's families.
"They hurt both families. They hurt their families. They hurt our families," Salah said.
Ahmed Ali's attorney, Paul Edlund, said his client is somewhat relieved to admit his part of the crime. Edlund said Ahmed knows what he did was wrong, but that Ahmed didn't want to go to prison for something he didn't do.
"All that he thought was going to happen was they were going to attempt to rob the store and get a couple bucks," Edlund said. "And unfortunately, these three people ended up getting shot and killed. But his role was not to help or be involved in the murder. I think that's what the county also recognized and why they fashioned the deal in the way that they did."
Edlund said his client will cooperate with authorities to convict his accomplice, Mahdi Ali, the young man accused of the shooting. Mahdi's Attorney Fredrick Goetz said he's not surprised by the plea deal.
"The other Ali is going to say and do anything to help himself and protect himself and protect others," Goetz said. "The truth, perhaps be damned."
Goetz declined to elaborate on who Ahmed might be trying to protect, but he hinted that it may come up during his defense of Mahdi.
Later this week, Goetz will continue his push to have Mahdi Ali tried as a juvenile. Goetz will present evidence to a judge to show that Mahdi was 15 at the time of the incident. Goetz said he needs to travel to two African countries to verify Mahdi's birth records.
If Goetz can prove that, his client will have to undergo a lengthy certification study to determine whether he should be tried as an adult. If he is tried as an adult and convicted of first-degree murder, Mahdi could receive a life sentence without parole.
Mahdi Ali's trial is scheduled to begin in September.