Young Somali Pirate Pleads Not Guilty, Outlines Defense

Abduwali Muse, the young, 5'2" Somali pirate, was indicted by a federal grand jury this week. The charges include piracy and violence against maritime navigation. (Indictment available here (pdf.) Bloomberg reports that if convicted, he faces mandatory life in prison. Today, he pleaded not guilty.

Mr. Muse is not faring well at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in downtown Manhattan. He's being held in isolation and his lawyers have asked for medical aid. They say he's only been allowed a one minute phone call to his mother in Somalia. He requires surgery on his hand and has another undisclosed medical condition. According to one of his lawyers: [More...]

“He’s isolated, he’s terrified, a boy who fishes and now he’s ended up in solitary confinement,” Deirdre von Dornum, another lawyer who is representing Muse, said outside court. “It’s a truly terrifying situation and he’s having a truly difficult time.”

Another of his lawyers outlined his defense outside of court.

Fiona Doherty, another Muse lawyer, told reporters after court that their client “will be exonerated,” adding, “Our client was only trying to find a peaceful resolution,” to the incident. “He was trying to negotiate for the safety of Captain Phillips.”

His lawyers told the court at his first appearance Muse is only 15. The Court ordered him tried as an adult.

Our prior coverage of the case and the Somali pirate hijacking of Captain Phillips and his ship is available here.

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    I hope he gets medical aid (5.00 / 2) (#1)
    by Cream City on Thu May 21, 2009 at 02:57:32 PM EST
    and out of isolation, but I find it hard to find his counsel fully credible here by claiming that is just "a boy who fishes."  What was he fishing for when involved in pirating -- compliments?

    Yeah, I could do without (5.00 / 3) (#3)
    by nycstray on Thu May 21, 2009 at 03:18:08 PM EST
    just a boy who fishes also. And now he's "terrified"? Gee, wonder how the people on the ship felt when he hijacked them?

    He might actually be better off in isolation. Not sure what the place is like. Would a terrified "boy who fishes" be any less so in the general prison population? They should give him the medical treatment he needs.


    his lawyers (5.00 / 4) (#7)
    by Bemused on Thu May 21, 2009 at 03:35:05 PM EST
      might also want to talk to one another about presenting a unified position. When lawyer A has him as a terrified boy who fishes and Lawyer B describes him as having the assumed confidence and  savvy judgment to undertake negotiations on behalf of the pirates to prevent and further violence, the BS meter redlines.

    Nice catch. n/t (none / 0) (#11)
    by Fabian on Thu May 21, 2009 at 03:50:00 PM EST
    Exactly what I was thinking. Will the real (none / 0) (#22)
    by ding7777 on Fri May 22, 2009 at 06:22:04 AM EST
    Abduwali Muse please stand up.

    the young, 5'2" Somali pirate... a boy who fishes... was trying to negotiate for the safety of Captain Phillips


    I agree (5.00 / 1) (#14)
    by Zorba on Thu May 21, 2009 at 05:06:05 PM EST
    He should get appropriate medical care, and the isolation may be for his own protection (although he ahould be allowed some human contact).  But I'm finding "a boy who fishes" a bit hard to take, too.  That's somewhat akin to calling a young accused rapist "a boy who's looking for a girlfriend."

    Fishing for... (none / 0) (#25)
    by kdog on Fri May 22, 2009 at 12:23:22 PM EST
    survival perhaps?  

    Hate the game, not the player....as the saying goes.  


    Is the isolation for his protection? (none / 0) (#2)
    by Spamlet on Thu May 21, 2009 at 03:01:09 PM EST

    I'm usually not in favor (5.00 / 1) (#6)
    by Fabian on Thu May 21, 2009 at 03:33:09 PM EST
    of isolation.  This is a small youth who may or may not speak English.  I doubt he'd fare well in the general population.  

    He deserves some contact with the outside world, rules permitting and to have his medical needs attended to.  


    Yesterday (none / 0) (#4)
    by Steve M on Thu May 21, 2009 at 03:20:02 PM EST
    I was actually over at the courthouse myself, but apparently I was too late to catch the Somali pirate sideshow.  Not to question the word of his lawyer, but everyone was saying how the guy couldn't have looked any happier to be here on American soil with all this attention, even if he's in the clutches of the justice system.  Perhaps he was only in a good mood because they let him out of his cage for a while.

    Do they always put 15 year olds in (none / 0) (#5)
    by Inspector Gadget on Thu May 21, 2009 at 03:28:07 PM EST
    adult jails when they are being tried as adults, or do they get incarcerated in juvenile centers while they await trial?

    I'm sure he is terrified. He seemed rather naive in his decision to leave the lifeboat to get his injuries treated during the standoff, too. 5'2" against adult American inmates and guards.

    Despite his role in the pirating, he is in a situation that would frighten most people.

    There is apparently no substantiation (5.00 / 1) (#8)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Thu May 21, 2009 at 03:39:34 PM EST
    that he's only 15.

    The US doesn't believe his mother -- and no birth (none / 0) (#9)
    by jawbone on Thu May 21, 2009 at 03:44:35 PM EST
    certificates on file....

    Kids who break laws do the time; banksters not so much.


    You think at 5'2" he's (none / 0) (#10)
    by Inspector Gadget on Thu May 21, 2009 at 03:48:25 PM EST
    reached his adult height?

    This is Somalia. (5.00 / 1) (#12)
    by Fabian on Thu May 21, 2009 at 03:56:47 PM EST
    Look at the WHO statistics on Somalia.  That nation has some of the worst per capita income, life expectancy, education, and infant mortality numbers in the world!  In other words, if you wanted to find the most undernourished, uneducated population - just go to Somalia. If he is about 18, he has lived half of his healthy life expectancy.

    The court has determined (none / 0) (#13)
    by Steve M on Thu May 21, 2009 at 04:35:25 PM EST
    that he is not a juvenile.

    How? (none / 0) (#15)
    by MrConservative on Thu May 21, 2009 at 05:26:25 PM EST
    Is their reasoning "we're not sure, so we're going to try him as an adult."

    Hopefully an appeals court overturns them.


    Dunno (none / 0) (#18)
    by Steve M on Thu May 21, 2009 at 07:45:45 PM EST
    Court held an age hearing, finding: not a juvenile.  Docket doesn't tell us any more than that.

    According to the press accounts, it seems like the defendant and/or his parents tried to claim different ages at different times, etc.  The court is empowered to assess the credibility of witnesses, it's not like we have to take his mom's word for it.


    :) Alrighty then (none / 0) (#16)
    by Inspector Gadget on Thu May 21, 2009 at 05:51:13 PM EST
    he must surely BE an adult if the court says so.

    Having lived overseas, I can assure you the laws and justice systems of those foreign locations terrified me. I wonder how many Americans are hauled off to foreign countries to face trial under the laws of that nation, and what would Americans do if a 15 year old was shipped to Somalia and declared an adult for their purposes.

    I do recall an American teen being given lashes somewhere like Hong Kong and this country being up in arms over it....he had damaged a large number of vehicles, or something...and he WAS guilty. If I remember correctly, Americans thought it was just teenage prank stuff that didn't deserve to be punished by another government's laws.



    Shrug (none / 0) (#17)
    by Steve M on Thu May 21, 2009 at 07:43:34 PM EST
    The court could be wrong, but in terms of answering your question, obviously where they incarcerate him is going to hinge on what the court determined about his age.  It's not like the penal system is going to be like "hey, the judge could be wrong, let's put him in a juvenile facility."

    Shrug to you, too (none / 0) (#20)
    by Inspector Gadget on Thu May 21, 2009 at 09:32:25 PM EST
    the court "determined". And, just what scientific magic did they use? I don't share your blind trust that everything done in our holy justice system is beyond reproach. I believe they make really huge mistakes all too often.

    You know (none / 0) (#21)
    by Steve M on Thu May 21, 2009 at 09:44:28 PM EST
    since I never tried to tell you that it was holy writ, but simply pointed out that of course the penal system relies upon judicial determinations, you could maybe be a little less of a jerk about my so-called "blind trust."  I see a lot more people on this blog taking it for granted that he's a juvenile than I see taking it for granted that he's an adult.

    Shrug (none / 0) (#24)
    by Inspector Gadget on Fri May 22, 2009 at 10:39:45 AM EST
    is the kind of opening attitude that doesn't earn you a respectful reply. It said my comment was to be dismissed as not worth your time, yet you took the time to criticize. Goes both ways, Steve.

    How frightening would it be to other juveniles (none / 0) (#23)
    by ding7777 on Fri May 22, 2009 at 06:29:57 AM EST
    to be incarcerated with a known Somali pirate?

    Historically (none / 0) (#26)
    by KoolJeffrey on Fri May 22, 2009 at 02:39:55 PM EST
    Pirates were punished with far more cruelty than armed robbers. Since it was often impossible to quickly transfer pirates to land to face justice, pirates spent an undetermined amount of time in the hands of their intended victims. This led to all manner of grisly punishments, including flogging, enslavement, branding, keel hauling, etc. Hanging could almost be viewed as the most humane option.

    One source of motivation for this cruelty was the knowlege of the much more exteme methods of torture employed by the pirates. Often used for sadistic pleasure or sport, pirates' of course tortured to find out where treasure was located. A discussion of their numerous and bizarre techniques is not appropriate in this forum, but one applicable example to this case might be marooning.

    Given the continuing brutality of international torture in modern times (including of course at the hands of Americans), I wonder if the history of piracy might exacerbate the harsh treatment of Mr. Muse. Past governments targeted by pirates certainly wouldn't have been concerned about surgery or contact with loved ones, and it appears not much has changed on that front.

    "Muse grew up destitute in Somalia" (none / 0) (#28)
    by sarcastic unnamed one on Fri May 22, 2009 at 03:04:24 PM EST
    Muse grew up destitute in Somalia, the oldest of 12 children
    Even if his youngest sib is a newborn, it'd be tough for him to be only 15. It's not like they're Irish or something.

    This is how it will play out (none / 0) (#29)
    by StevenT on Fri May 22, 2009 at 11:58:17 PM EST
    The jury will find him guilty, and sentence him to life in prison. His lawyers will appeal and the Court will overturn his conviction suggesting that the U.S. does not have jurisdiction, if lucky will end up with SCOTUS making the same decision. Thus, he will have to be set free and be deported back to Somalia. However since he discovered how nice U.S. is, he'll apply for asylum and will be granted that stay due to he being illegally captured and sent to the U.S. A journalist will then write a book about him, giving him some money, and a new industry is created as all pirates in the world will then attempt to do the same thing.