ROCHESTER — The defense attorney for a 25-year-old Rochester man accused of aiding and abetting the 2019 murder of a 28-year-old man told a jury the only thing prosecutors could prove was that the 28-year-old man died and was shot.
The words, spoken by Ayub Abucar Hagi Iman’s attorney, James McGeeney, came as part of opening statements on Tuesday morning, March 29, 2022, as Iman’s trial began in the County District Court of Olmsted.
Whether the eight women and six men on the jury agree will likely not be known for at least a week, as prosecutors are set to call likely more than a dozen witnesses to testify. In the end, only 12 jurors will participate in the deliberations.
Iman, 25, is charged in Olmsted County District Court with aiding and abetting second degree murder. A jury was appointed on Monday.
Iman declined a plea offer from prosecutors that would have seen him plead guilty to aiding an offender after the fact and be sentenced to between 50 and 81 months in state prison.
Garad Hassan Roble, 28, was found by a passing motorist before dawn on March 5, 2019, on 45th Street Southeast between St. Bridget Road Southeast (County Road 20) and Simpson Road (County Road 1 ). Roble died of multiple gunshot wounds, including at least one wound to the head and another to the abdomen, according to court documents.
Olmsted County Assistant District Attorney Andrew LeTourneau told the jury in their opening statements that the timeline of events from March 4 leading up to March 5 would be important to them in reaching a verdict. Large amounts of cellphone data, including information taken from the phone itself as well as data taken from cellphone towers, are expected to serve as evidence and show the men’s movements that night.
LeTourneau told jurors that evidence would show Iman was one of two men who drove Roble to the rural gravel road where her body was found.
The second man, Muhidin Abukar, 33, is also charged with aiding and abetting second-degree murder.
A jury trial was held in late November and early December 2021, but ended in a mistrial after a jury was unable to reach a unanimous verdict after approximately 18 hours of deliberation. He has been held on $10 million outright bail since August 2019. A second trial is tentatively scheduled for May.
Prosecutors said in the Iman and Abukar trials that they did not know who pulled the trigger.
“We can’t tell you exactly what happened on 45th Street. We don’t know who pulled the trigger 11 times and killed Garad Roble,” LeTourneau said. “The evidence will show, at the very least, that Ayub Iman aided and abetted the murder of Garad Roble by leading him to his death.”
The semi-automatic .40 caliber Glock handgun used to kill Roble was found March 8 above the frozen Zumbro River near the northwest bridge of Elton Hills Drive. LeTourneau told jurors that cellphone data would show Iman was the person who threw him there.
McGeeney, along with Abukar’s attorneys Paul Applebaum and Kenneth Udoibok, say that while cellular data presented by witnesses shows the phones were together, there was no evidence that Roble, Abukar and Iman were together on the Southeast 45th Street this March morning.
None of the cellphone records obtained by investigators show that any of the tracked phone numbers belong to Iman. Prosecutors are expected to obtain testimony to connect Iman to a phone number that others had in their phone contacts as “YB”.
The attorneys had preliminary arguments outside the presence of the jury on Tuesday afternoon about whether prosecutors would be able to call a witness who was not previously on the witness lists.
Olmsted County District Attorney Mark Ostrem told Judge Christina Stevens the intention was to explore the relationship between Iman and the registered subscriber of that phone number.
The lawyers also briefly discussed the number of crime scene and autopsy photos that would be presented as evidence. A decision was finally made without a decision from the judge.
During Tuesday’s testimony, jurors heard from the motorist who called 911 after discovering Roble’s body early on March 5, 2019, as well as four members of the Olmsted County Sheriff’s Office and two medical examiners of the Minnesota Bureau of Criminal Apprehension.
Forensic scientist Mckenzie Anderson testified that 10 cartridge cases collected from around Roble’s body did not have enough DNA for testing. Two bullet fragments tested positive for Roble DNA.
Anderson was also responsible for swabbing the Glock handgun for DNA evidence. Although DNA was found on the pistol’s grips, slide, trigger guard and magazine, none of it was suitable for testing as it contained DNA from multiple individuals with no clear majority or greater contribution from ‘a person.
There wasn’t enough DNA on the trigger to do any further testing.
Three cigarette butts that were collected as evidence from the scene were not tested for DNA because Anderson said the BCA was not asked to test them by the sheriff’s office.
Medical Examiner Travis Melland, who works as a firearms and tool mark examiner for the BCA, said the cartridge cases were all fired from the same gun and that gun was the Glock found near the Elton Hills Bridge.
The two determinations were made about a week apart as the casings and handgun were not found at the same time.
The trial is expected to resume Wednesday morning as prosecutors are expected to call a number of civilian witnesses as well as members of law enforcement.