How old is Seward shooting suspect?

Mahdi Hassan Ali
Mahdi Hassan Ali and another teen were charged with murder in the Jan. 6 killings at Seward Market. There's some question about how old Ali is. If he's younger than 16, his case would be moved to juvenile court.
AP Photo/Hennepin County Sheriff

Documents filed this week in Hennepin County District Court shed some light on the age and identity of one of the suspects in the triple homicide at the Seward Market in Minneapolis.

The attorney for murder suspect Mahdi Hassan Ali says it appears that Ali is 15 years old. If that is true, it could change how Ali is tried, and how he will be punished if convicted.

The paperwork includes a sworn affidavit from Sainab Osman, who claims that she gave birth to a son on August 25, 1994. The boy she says is her son now goes by the name Mahdi Hassan Ali, and is now in Hennepin County jail charged as an adult for first degree murder.

Ali's birthdate is important. If he was born on August 25, 1994, Ali is 15 -- not 17, as is stated on his official documents, including a driver's license.

Ali's attorney, Frederick Goetz, says first degree murder suspects younger than 16 have to be treated as juveniles.

"They would have to start in juvenile court. Then the juvenile court would conduct a lengthy certification study to determine if, in that particular case, whether or not that juvenile would be more appropriately prosecuted in adult court," said Goetz.

Goetz says if Ali is tried as a juvenile and convicted of murder, he could not be sentenced to life in prison. But if he's tried as an adult, he could. MPR tried to contact Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman for comment. However, a spokesperson says Freeman declined to comment because he hasn't yet read the documents.

One of those court documents shows Sainab Osman delivered her son at a hospital in Kenya. Osman was in her 50s and suffered complications during delivery. A document from the hospital confirms the delivery date and says Osman was suffering from hypertension.

Sainab Osman said she was too poor and too sick to raise the child herself, so she gave the boy to her niece and her niece's husband. They named him Khalid Arrasi.

Attorney Frederick Goetz says when that child turned 8, another couple took him. They changed his name to Mahdi Ali, they changed his birthdate to Jan. 1, 1993, and they brought him to the United States.

That January birthdate is the one authorities used to charge Ali with first degree murder as an adult.

Sainab Osman, the woman who in court documents claims to be Mahdi Ali's mother, emigrated to the United States in 2006. In the court documents, Osman said she came to Minneapolis to be close to her son.

In 2007, she became Ali's legal custodian. However, she petitioned for custody as the boy's paternal great-aunt.

Goetz says he's in the process of verifying the information he's collected so far. And that may include a trip to Africa.

"We need to go back to that hospital in Kenya and verify that yes, these are the official records and that is exactly what happened," said Goetz. "We also need to get the testimony from the two people who actually raised this boy -- took him from the mother and then raised him as their own."

Those people, Osman's niece and the niece's husband, live in Johnannesburg, South Africa. Goetz has also filed a motion to ask the court to pay for the travel.

Goetz may get a chance to argue for this and other motions when he and Mahdi Ali appear in front of a judge during a status conference scheduled for Friday.