St. Paul cop sued for millions?

Hamdi Ali Osman is a women who lost the last six years of her freedom and four of them were spent in prison. Now, she has filed a lawsuit alleging that a St. Paul police officer’s lies put her in prison. Osman, 26, is asking for 2 million dollars for each year she spent in custody, including the 2 years she was in pretrial detention, for a total of 12 million dollars in damages.

Osman was only one of 30 other people charged in a major federal sex-trafficking case that allegedly involved juvenile victims and stretched from the Twin Cities to Nashville, Tenn. Last month, a federal appeals court reviewed the handling of the case by police, and then prosecutors dismissed charges against Osman and the others that were arrested.

St. Paul Sgt. Heather Weyker, in a 2004 photo

St. Paul Sgt. Heather Weyker, in a 2004 photo

What the appeals court found was that St. Paul police Sgt. Heather Weyker, “exaggerated or fabricated important aspects” of an alleged victim’s story, and that she lied to a grand jury and later during a detention hearing, according to the finding filed on March 2nd.

Osman, said that in jail she and other inmates spent 23 hours a day locked in their cells. She’d been there for four years and on home arrest for two years.

Osman is from Somalia. She moved to the United States when she was 2 and is a permanent resident like most of the others that were arrested.

Osman grew up in South Minneapolis and, after high school, headed to Nashville in 2008 to live with friends. During this time, she received a call from a juvenile she knew from the Somali community in Minneapolis. This girl said she was coming to stay with Osman in Nashville. Osman told her she couldn’t stay with her, but she would let her stay until her mother came to get her. The girl’s mother went to get her the next day, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit claims that “Weyker (the officer) knowingly and intentionally manipulated, defrauded, threatened, and pressured” the girl “into fabricating evidence and testimony that her visit to Nashville was solicited by Osman for the purpose of commercial sex. This was demonstrably false, and Weyker knew it.”

The lawsuit continued, stating, “Weyker also attempted to manipulate, threaten, pressure, defraud two other young females who knew Osman, to frame Osman as a ‘Madam,’ but these young women ultimately resisted … and told Weyker the truth: … that they were not … sex-trafficked, that Osman was in no way involved in any commercial sex-trafficking of minors. Weyker ignored this and other exculpatory evidence, and instead continued with her scheme.”

In 2010, Osman said she was working at Jennie-O in Willmar, Minnesota, when a large number of federal agents showed up and told her they had a warrant for her arrest in Tennessee.

“I thought it was a traffic ticket,” said Osman, speaking Thursday in St. Paul with her attorneys by her side — Irlbeck, Jeff Storms and Paul Applebaum. Little did she know it was the beginning of a six year ordeal. St. Paul police began an internal  investigation into Weyker on March 3rd, the day after the court’s finding was filed, and they placed her on paid administrative leave. On March 9th, Weyker returned to work and the department put the internal investigation on hold. The suit continued: “By the end of 2012, at the very latest, St. Paul, its police department, and Weyker’s supervisors were all aware of the of Weyker’s fabricated evidence in a case that made news headline after news headline.”

“Ms. Osman always knew the accusations against her were a lie but … she kept faith in way the criminal justice system functions,” Irlbeck said. “Of course, when you realize that one cop can tell a lie that takes six years of your life away, it starts to make you wonder whether that system really works for you. It took six years, but the system did work for her. And now this is the second half of the system working for her, the civil case.”

Ms. Osman has now returned to Minnesota and is currently living with her family in St.Paul. She’s been getting a custom to having freedom and is now looking for a job.

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