DOJ: Life Sentence in Piracy Convictions

press release
Thursday, October 06, 2011

Two Somalis Sentenced to Life in Prison for Acts of Piracy Against the S/V Quest.

 

Muhidin Salad Omar, a/k/a  “Muhiyaden Salad,” a/k/a “Gurdan,” a/k/a “Gardan,” a/k/a “Gurden,” a/k/a “Muhdin,”  a/k/a “Dudan,” 30, and Mahdi Jama Mohamed, a/k/a “Mahdi,” age estimated to be 23 to 24, both of Somalia, were sentenced today in Norfolk federal court for acts of piracy against the S/V Quest, which resulted in the murder of United States citizens Scott Underwood Adam, Jean Savage Adam, Phyllis Patricia Macay and Robert Campbell Riggle.  Omar previously pled guilty on May 25, 2011 and Mohamed on pled guilty on May 26, 2011 to piracy under the law of nations.


Neil H. MacBride, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia; Janice K. Fedarcyk, Assistant Director-in-Charge of the FBI’s New York Field Office; Alex J. Turner, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI’s Norfolk Field Office; and Mark Russ, Special Agent in Charge of the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) in Norfolk, made the announcement after Omar and Mohamed were sentenced by United States District Judge Mark S. Davis.


Somali piracy is a scourge on the world stage, and it continues to grow more widespread and more violent,” said U.S. Attorney MacBride. “Armed attacks on the high seas carry a very real threat of death to those taken hostage, a threat that was tragically made evident in this case. That threat remains for hundreds of hostages held hostage in Somalia, and a life sentence sends a strong message to anyone who chooses to engage in piracy against U.S. interests that they will face severe consequences.”


“Today’s sentencings should serve as yet another example, in the litany that already exists, of what happens to those who pirate our ships and participate in the killing of Americans. Muhidin Salad Omar and Mahdi Jama Mohamed will spend the rest of their lives behind bars, far away from the high seas they terrorized,” said Assistant Director-in-Charge Janice K. Fedarcyk.


According to court documents, Omar admitted that he was approached to participate in piracy operations because they needed a driver for the skiff and that he went to the American warship to try and save things, hoping that the American forces would pull back and allow them to reach Somali waters.  He told the court that the American commander informed the pirates that the U.S. government does not pay money, but if they sent over the hostages on the skiff, they could take the Quest.  He admitted that he knew the pirates had committed a crime against the United States because they held the hostages.  Omar admitted that he willingly engaged in piracy for financial gain and participated in the pirating of the Quest and in the taking of the four Americans on board as hostages.   However, he warranted in his plea agreement that he did not personally shoot any of the four Americans, nor did they instruct any other person to shoot the hostages.


Mohamed admitted he requested to join the pirates before the pirates left Somalia to look for a vessel to hijack.  He also admitted to holding a rifle while aboard the Quest when he was on guard duty with the hostages.   However, he also warranted in his plea agreement that he did not personally shoot any of the four Americans, nor did he instruct any other person to shoot the hostages.


The investigation of the case is being conducted by the FBI and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service. The prosecution in the Eastern District of Virginia is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Benjamin L. Hatch, Joseph DePadilla and Brian J. Samuels, from the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and Trial Attorney Paul Casey from the Department of Justice’s National Security Division.


A copy of this press release may be found on the website of the United States Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Virginia at http://www.justice.gov/usao/vae.  Related court documents and information may be found on the website of the District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia at http://www.vaed.uscourts.gov or on https://pcl.uscourts.gov.
 

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