State senator’s campaign volunteer sentenced for lying to grand jury about delivering ballots

Muse Mohamed will serve six months on house arrest, two years of probation

By: - November 7, 2022 1:09 pm

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Minneapolis DFL Sen. Omar Fateh’s brother-in-law and campaign volunteer was sentenced Monday to six months of house arrest and two years of probation for lying to a grand jury during a ballot fraud investigation.

Muse Mohamud Mohamed, 30, was convicted by a federal jury in May of two counts of lying to the grand jury when he testified that he was asked to return three absentee ballots for voters during the 2020 primary election. 

The voters didn’t know Mohamed or ask him to deliver their ballots, and Mohamed refused to tell the grand jury where he got the ballots. Grand juries are made up of citizens who look at evidence and decide whether federal charges should be filed.

Fateh — who is up for re-election on Tuesday — has denied any knowledge of or involvement in Mohamed’s actions. 

Mohamed was convicted in connection with a wider federal investigation into misuse of the absentee ballot “agent delivery” process, in which voters with health problems or who live in a group home, nursing home or hospital can have someone else — an agent — deliver their ballot to an election office. The agent must have a relationship with the voter, and each agent can deliver ballots for no more than three voters per election. 

Prosecutors sought a 24- to 30-month prison sentence, saying Mohamed brazenly lied and covered up for whoever gave him the ballots to take to the election office, and continues to do so today.

Mohamed cried as he asked the judge not to take him away from his fiancée and two daughters, aged 4 and eight months, saying he’s never been in trouble with the law before. 

U.S. District Judge Nancy Brasel said while she’s “extremely disappointed” in how the case turned out — with Mohamed refusing to say where he got the ballots — Mohamed has shown a “remarkable history” of surviving war and violence and getting a bachelor’s degree to support his family.

Brasel said she didn’t have enough information to conclude the government would’ve been able to seek an indictment for ballot fraud had Mohamed told the truth. 

Mohamed’s attorney, Andrew Mohring, argued that Mohamed had an “otherwise exemplary life” and a pre-sentence investigation uncovered post-traumatic stress disorder from his experiences in Somalia before immigrating to the U.S. His father was killed while he was in a refugee camp, leaving his mother with eight children. Mohamed could get culturally appropriate PTSD treatment outside the prison system, Mohring argued.

Publicity surrounding the case has been punishing, he said.

“The community has heard loud and clear and seen what happens,” Mohring told the judge. About 40 people showed up to support Mohamed in court Monday. 

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly Svendsen noted Mohamed still has not told investigators where he got the ballots, so “the crime is still going on.” She said his lies went “directly to the heart of the case” and federal investigators have been unable to figure out who gave him the ballots. 

Brasel said the federal government rarely brings perjury charges, and their ballot fraud investigation is “more important than ever” now, the day before an election where the scope of fraud is disputed by political parties. 

Although voter fraud is rare, Republicans often claim it’s a widespread problem to argue for tighter voting restrictions that would make it harder for people to vote.

“You say you have respect for people —the grand jury deserved that respect. Your friend deserved that respect. The voters deserved that respect,” Brasel said.

Brasel said she’d still prefer to see the ballot fraud uncovered and prosecuted, “but I leave that for another day.”  

Mohring noted that he has worked as an election judge since 1996, and will be doing so again tomorrow. 

“I take elections extremely serious,” he said. 

After the sentencing, Mohring declined to say why Mohamed wouldn’t tell the grand jury where he got the ballots. 

Mohamed’s case led to fallout at the state capitol. 

Fateh’s 2020 campaign manager, Dawson Kimyon, was hired as a legislative aide after Fateh was elected. DFL leadership put Kimyon on leave after it was disclosed during the trial that Mohamed told the grand jury Kimyon told him where to pick up the ballots. Kimyon later resigned. 

Fateh underwent a state Senate ethics investigation on this and other issues, where all but one unrelated charge was dismissed by the bipartisan panel. When called to testify by the Senate committee, Kimyon declined to answer most questions, invoking his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself.

Zaynab Mohamed — the DFL-endorsed candidate running for the Senate in the heavily Democratic District 63 — is his sister, but has said she wasn’t a subject of the investigation. She was also a full-time volunteer for Fateh during his 2020 campaign.

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Deena Winter
Deena Winter

Deena Winter has covered local and state government in four states over the past three decades, with stints at the Bismarck Tribune in North Dakota, as a correspondent for the Denver Post, city hall reporter in Lincoln, Nebraska, and regional editor for Southwest News in the western Minneapolis suburbs.