Somali refugee who was sentenced to probation for two Salt Lake City rapes will likely be deported

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) An undated photo of Mohammed Ali Mohammed, who was 14 when police say he raped two women at knifepoint.

A Somali refugee who had been sentenced to probation after serving six years in a juvenile detention facility for raping two Utah women in 2011 may soon be deported, officials confirmed Thursday.

Mohammed Ali Mohammed, now 20, was supposed to be on strict probation for five years, after a 3rd District judge on Nov. 27 opted to give him a chance at probation instead of a lengthy term in adult prison.

The sentencing came a month before Mohammed’s 21st birthday — the time when he would age out of the juvenile system and could no longer be housed at the Wasatch Youth Center, where he has been since pleading guilty to rape, sexual assault and kidnapping charges in 2012.

Judge Vernice Trease ordered that Mohammed be under strict probation terms, which included ankle monitoring and no internet access. She also ordered that he check in weekly with both his probation officer and in court with her.

If he didn’t follow the terms, she said, she wouldn’t “bat an eye” before revoking his probation and sending him to prison.

But it appears Mohammed won’t get that chance at probation.

His attorney, Ray Shuey, wrote in a Tuesday email to the judge that when Shuey went to the Adult Probation and Parole (AP&P) office that day to meet with Mohammed and his probation officer, he was told his client was in U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement custody.

“While at the AP&P offices, I was informed by ICE Senior Deportation Officer Martin Lawrence that Mohammed had been taken into custody for deportation,” Shuey wrote in the email, which was filed with the court.

Shuey did not respond to a phone call seeking comment.

ICE spokesman Carl Rusnok confirmed Thursday that Mohammed was taken into custody earlier that week at the probation offices.

He wrote in an email that while Mohammed entered the country legally in 2009, his felony convictions in the adult court made him deportable.

“As an aggravated felon, Mohammed has been issued a notice to appear before a federal immigration judge,” Rusnok wrote. “He will remain in ICE custody pending disposition of his immigration case.”

Mohammed’s mother told The Salt Lake Tribune in 2012 that she and her family fled Somalia to Yemen in 1992. Her son was born in a refugee camp there, Zahra Mohammed said, away from the civil conflict in Somalia but not free from violence.

He saw his brother killed by a robber, according to testimony at earlier court proceedings, witnessed a rape and was himself the victim of sexual abuse.

On Aug. 14, 2011, in Salt Lake City, the then-14-year-old teen came up behind a woman who was outside her house with a dog and held a four-inch switchblade to her throat. He threatened to cut her if she screamed, the charges state, then raped her behind the home.

The following night, the boy broke into another woman’s home. He looked through drawers in the house before raping the woman, according to charging documents.

The teen then forced the woman to go to an ATM and withdraw money for him, according to charges.

He pleaded guilty to charges in both juvenile and adult court, allowing a “blended” sentence that would give him the chance to receive services in the juvenile system, but still give the judge the option to sentence him to adult prison, if necessary.

Supporters of Mohammed, mostly staffers and volunteers at Wasatch Youth Center, told the judge at his November sentencing that he has responded well to services there. He understands empathy and responsibility, and was a leader in his unit. He had planned to work as a carpenter when he was released.

Mohammed’s sentence of probation was not what prosecutors or victims had sought.

One rape victim told the judge at sentencing that she was “terrified” at the thought of Mohammed being out on the same streets where she lives. Prosecutors had said a sentence at the Utah State Prison was a fitting punishment for the violent crimes.