Thursday, November 02, 2006

Dad sentenced to 10 years for circumcising daughter

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 11/02/06

It may have been the quiet testimony of his young daughter that brought down convicted mutilator Khalid Adem.

Or maybe it was testimony from defense witnesses whose credibility was easily attacked. Or it could have been in the little lies that a prosecutor found in Adem's own testimony that led to his downfall.
Khalid Adem, 31, who was born in Ethiopia, reacts to the verdict in Gwinnett County.

• Facts on female genital mutilation

Whatever the reason, after seven days of testimony a jury took only three hours on Wednesday to find Adem guilty of aggravated battery and cruelty to children. The verdict ended the rare trial that was being followed nationally, a landmark case for activists fighting against female genital mutilation.

Though Adem defiantly denied the act, he will serve 10 years in prison and five years' probation for using scissors to circumcise his then-2-year-old daughter in 2001.

Superior Court Judge Richard Winegarden, who presided over the case, questioned the strategy used to defend Adem.

Hill had said that the victim's mother and grandmother did the mutilation and then blamed Adem because the couple was going through a bitter custody battle.

Before sentencing Adem, Winegarden said he didn't understand Adem's allegations against his ex-wife.

"Why would a mother do such a horrible thing to her own daughter just to get back at the defendant?" Winegarden asked. "It just doesn't make sense."

Assistant District Attorney Marty First called many witnesses who said Adem mutilated his young daughter. Adem's daughter testified that her father cut her.

Adem was born in Ethiopia, where circumcision is sometimes performed on young girls. The African practice has been denounced for decades by health and human rights activists. In some areas of Africa, it is considered a coming-of-age ritual.

The young girl's mother, Fortunate Adem, said that Adem did the mutilation in October 2001 and had hinted that he wanted to do it before that time. The mother said Adem took five days off work and solely took care of the girl during the time she believed the mutilation occurred.

The mother also said she didn't report the circumcision until 2003 because she didn't know it had occurred until then. The young girl's grandmother and therapist testified that the girl had continuous nightmares where she screamed "No. Daddy. No."

Adem's defense may have been doomed by the first witness that his attorney called. Hill called a manager at the Gwinnett County gas station where Adem worked at the time of the mutilation. Hill told the jury that he was going to use the manager to prove that Adem never took five days off work in a row and could not have hid the mutilation from his wife.

But when the manager got on the stand he said he didn't know if Adem had taken the days off or not. Hill then showed the manager what he said were time sheets that proved Adem was at work. But the manager said the time sheets the attorney showed him weren't the ones that he used and he had no idea where the attorney had gotten those time sheets.

First also attacked defense witness Jack Farrar, a child psychologist from Jonesboro. Farrar testified that it was very difficult for a 7-year-old to remember what happened when she was 2. Farrar also said that it appeared the young victim had been coached to blame her father.

But First told the jury that Farrar had been suspended from testifying in trials by a board that regulates psychologists. Farrar had been suspended because he had given questionable testimony in at least two other trials, First said.

Farrar admitted that he had been suspended but said he was appealing the suspension. Despite the verdict, Adem still professed his innocence before he was led from the courtroom in handcuffs.Hill, the defense attorney, said he plans to challenge the verdict.

"My client maintains that he is innocent. And I believe him."

Winegarden said the sentence was appropriate. Adem could have faced up to 40 years in prison.

"I think 40 years is too harsh," Winegarden told courtroom spectators.

"People who kill people are out in a lot less than 40 years. But this is an awful crime. And it was done on his own daughter. Ten years is not lenient. If you think 10 years in prison is lenient then ask Khalid Adem. I bet he wouldn't say it is lenient."

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