Fargo teen who spent childhood in refugee camp gets 20 years for sex assault
FARGO — A Fargo teenager who endured a "feral" childhood in a refugee camp was sentenced Monday, April 10, to 20 years in prison for sexually assaulting and terrorizing a young woman nearly four years ago.
Abdirahman P. Sahel, who is believed to be 18 years old, approached two young female guests in the parking lot of the Fargo Holiday Inn in August 2013 and threatened them with a handgun before forcing one of the girls to perform a sexual act, prosecutor Cherie Clark said during Monday's sentencing hearing.
Clark said the victim was traumatized by the attack, as was the young woman who witnessed the incident.
The essence of the sentence—20 years behind bars—was endorsed by both Clark and Sahel's attorney, Monty Mertz. Sahel earlier pleaded guilty to gross sexual imposition and terrorizing in connection with the attack.
The sentence will be served at the same time as a 12-year sentence Sahel received after he was convicted at trial in September of attacking a woman in the parking lot of the West Acres Shopping Center in September 2014. In that case Sahel was convicted on charges of robbery, attempted kidnapping, terrorizing and simple assault. DNA collected from Sahel while he was in custody for the West Acres assault tied him to the Holiday Inn attack.
At Sahel's earlier plea hearing, the victims in the Holiday Inn case said they wanted the sentence for that crime to be served consecutive to the 12 years behind bars ordered in the West Acres case. That would have meant a much longer sentence for Sahel, since he wouldn't serve the sentence for the 2013 crime until serving the 12-year term. The women said the two cases were separate and deserved separate sentences.
Mertz said during Monday's sentencing hearing that Sahel will likely spend more than 15 years behind bars and when he gets out there is a strong chance he will be deported.
The defense attorney called Sahel's situation a complex one, as it was possible Sahel was 14 when the crime at the hotel parking lot was committed. He said Sahel, who is from Somalia, lost his parents at a very early age and lived the "life of a feral child" in a refugee camp.
Mertz said because Sahel's believed birth date in January 1999 is not a certainty, at least one psychologist who has assessed him thinks he may still be a juvenile.
"Which was very fascinating to me," Mertz said.
Sahel was given credit for having already served about two and a half years of his sentence.