On Air
Open In Popup
MPR News

Prosecutors press to keep St. Kate's terror suspect jailed

Share story

Tnuza Jamal Hassan
This photo provided by the Ramsey County Sheriff's Office shows Tnuza Jamal Hassan. A criminal complaint said Hassan, 19, a former student at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, admitted to investigators that she started the fires on Wednesday, Jan. 17, 2018, including one in a dormitory that housed a day care center. She's charged with first-degree arson.
Ramsey County Sheriff's Office via AP

Federal prosecutors oppose the release request of a 19-year-old Minneapolis woman accused of trying to join al-Qaeda from federal detention. 

In a document filed this week, prosecutors offered new evidence found on Tnuza Hassan's phone that allegedly show "terrorist propaganda that encourages individuals to conduct unlawful violence."

Hassan, a former St. Catherine University student, was arrested on Jan. 17 after allegedly setting fires at several buildings at the university while apparently hiding from her family.

Since then, she has been charged with arson, attempting to provide material support to al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and making a false statement to the FBI.

During her detention hearing on Feb. 12, Magistrate Judge Steven E. Rau entertained the idea of releasing Hassan to her family under house arrest once he learned more about her family.

In the end, Rau agreed with federal prosecutors who argued that Hassan was a flight risk and a danger to the community. Rau ordered her detained in Sherburne County as the case proceeds.

But last week, Hassan attorneys Robert Sicoli and Joshua Johnson filed a motion asking a judge to release Hassan, arguing that her mother and sister would take custody of her and "follow all orders of the Court to ensure Ms. Hassan's future appearances in court and to ensure the safety of the community."

They said she will be prohibited from accessing the internet and will be monitored by GPS tracking and she won't leave the house without the permission of the U.S. Probation Office.

In the government's response to the release request, Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles Kovats wrote that Hassan's lawyers did not provide new details that would warrant her release.

"The government accepts that both [Hassan's mother and sister] may honestly believe they can provide adequate supervision of the defendant," he wrote. "But the question before the Court is not about the good intentions of the defendant's family, but about the defendant's intentions, if she released. On this point, the record is abundantly clear."

Kovats wrote that the FBI had recently obtained a search warrant to access Hassan's cell phone, where they found blueprints of St. Catherine University, Coeur de Catherine, which is the student center, and St. Mary's residence hall, where Hassan allegedly started the fire on Jan. 17.

FBI agents also found on Hassan's phone a document, which was created on Jan. 11, that contained only five words: backpack, pressure cooker, metal shards, nails and cell phone.

"The community remains lucky that the defendant did not know how to build a bomb," Kovats wrote. "There is no good reason to see if this luck will hold by releasing this dangerous defendant."