Thursday, June 9, 2011

Unable to give much more time to Iraqi citizen who engaged in sexual act with 13-year-old, judge frees man from jail (Jackson Citizen Patriot)

Unable to give much more time to Iraqi citizen who engaged in sexual act with 13-year-old, judge frees man from jail
Published: Thursday, June 09, 2011, 2:30 PM
By Danielle Salisbury | Jackson Citizen Patriot

Unable to give him much more time, Circuit Judge Thomas Wilson freed from the Jackson County Jail on Thursday an Iraqi citizen extradited to Jackson on criminal sexual conduct charges.

Wilson sentenced Zuhair Al-Kassid, 33, to 477 days in jail, which Al-Kassid already has served while waiting for his case to be adjudicated. U.S. immigration officials, however, have a hold on Al-Kassid and were expected to take him into their custody Friday morning.

Al-Kassid pleaded guilty in April to fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct for engaging in a sexual act or acts with a 13-year-old he met in 2005 at a Blackman Township motel.

His lawyer, Martin Van Houzen, said Al-Kassid already had served twice the amount of time in jail recommended by the county probation department, which prepares pre-sentencing reports.

Fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct carries a maximum penalty of two years in prison and a $500 fine.

“There is little I can do to him that hasn’t already been done,” the judge said Thursday.

Al-Kassid initially was charged both with third- and fourth-degree criminal sexual conduct, but the prosecutor’s office dismissed the greater charge.

A report was inconclusive as to whether there was sexual penetration, Al-Kassid’s lawyer, Martin Van Houzen, said Thursday.

The victim told varying stories and is “profoundly confused” due to a brain injury, Van Houzen said to the judge.

Chief Assistant Prosecutor Mark Blumer said the woman has some memory problems and other issues as a result of the injury, suffered before the sex offense.

By securing a plea, the prosecutor’s office guaranteed Al-Kassid was convicted of a crime, which will allow U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement to deport him if deemed appropriate, Blumer said.

In October, the woman, then 18, testified she had sex with Al-Kassid, who had a green card and was living legally in Dearborn. They met through a teen telephone chat service and decided to meet. Al-Kassid drove to her grandmother’s house outside of Jackson.

They made some stops and then went to what is now America’s Best Value Inn on Shirley Drive.

He thought, because he used a credit card for the telephone service, the girl was older than 18, his lawyer said.

Al-Kassid declined when the judge asked him if he had anything to say.

About 16 months ago, he was caught trying to enter Canada from Turkey. Checking his name, Canadian authorities realized he was wanted in Jackson County. On him, he had currency from Iraq, Cuba and Syria.

Police believe he fled the country shortly before a warrant for his arrest was authorized in early 2006.

His lawyer said he left the United States to take a long-awaited job as a translator for the U.S. military.

While awaiting extradition proceedings, he remained for about eight months in Canadian custody. This time counted toward his sentence. Blackman Township public safety officers brought him in early October from Detroit Metropolitan Wayne County Airport in Romulus to Jackson County.

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