Mother testifies in age hearing for triple-killing suspect

Mahdi Hassan Ali
This undated image provided by the Hennepin County Sheriff shows Mahdi Hassan Ali, who faces three counts of murder in the Jan. 6, 2010 killings at Seward Market and Halal Meat. His attorney is seeking to prove that Ali was only 15 at the time of the crime, which could move his trial to juvenile court.
AP Photo/Hennepin County Sheriff

The mother of triple-homicide suspect Mahdi Hassan Ali testified Wednesday in an age-determination hearing in Hennepin County District Court. The hearing should wrap up Thursday.

Sainab Osman says she gave birth to Mahdi Ali in a Kenyan hospital in August 1994. That would mean Ali was 15 years old at the time he allegedly shot and killed three people at the Seward Market in Minneapolis on Jan. 6, 2010. That would also mean that Ali is eligible to be tried as a juvenile.

Prosecutors contend that Ali was 17 at the time of the shootings, and want to try him in adult court, where he would face a stiffer life sentence without parole if he's convicted.

Parts of Osman's testimony raised questions about the veracity of her claims. Osman admitted to lying about her son's age and identity on immigration documents, and in Hennepin County Family Court. She said she lied to immigration officials because she was afraid she wouldn't be allowed to enter the U.S.

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Osman said she was in her 50s when she gave birth to Ali. She said there were complications surrounding the birth and she needed to be hospitalized for several months. Osman said she was too sick to care for her son, so she gave the boy to her niece and her niece's husband to raise.

Osman said she didn't list Mahdi as one of her 10 children on her immigration forms.

"I was ashamed to claim him because I couldn't take care of him," Osman said in court through an interpreter.

But Osman testified she wanted to regain custody of Ali once she came to the U.S. Meanwhile, Ali was brought to the U.S. by another couple who were posing as his parents. That couple, not Osman's niece and husband, changed the boy's name from Khalid Arrasi to Mahdi Ali. The couple also gave Ali the birthdate of Jan. 1, 1993.

Osman admitted to following along with the deception as she went to Hennepin County Family Court in order to gain custody of Ali. She even posed as Ali's grandmother. Osman said she kept the false story going because she didn't want to cause problems for her son.

State prosecutors called a dental expert to testify regarding Ali's dental records. Dr. James Lewis said according to his evaluation of the X-rays, it's more likely than not that Ali was 17 years old at the time of the triple killing.

On Tuesday, Ali's lawyer Frederick Goetz called his own dental expert to testify about the accuracy of the dental X-rays. The doctor told the court that science cannot pinpoint Ali's age. But, he says a computer estimate shows that Ali was likely 16 or older at the time of the shooting.

The judge in the case ordered the X-rays of Ali's teeth in hopes they would help determine his real age.

Ali's murder trial is scheduled to start in late September.

The other suspect in the case, Ahmed Abdi Ali, who was 17 at the time of the crime, pleaded guilty to lesser charges in April. He will cooperate with prosecutors against Mahdi Hassan Ali. In exchange, he will avoid a possible life sentence.