A judge refused Thursday to lower the $1 million bail for a Seattle resident who allegedly tried to run over two men outside a synagogue in a Jewish neighborhood in the Wilshire area while yelling anti-Semitic remarks last November.
Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Deborah S. Brazil denied the defense’s motion to lower bail for Mohamed Abdi Mohamed or to release the 33-year-old defendant on his own recognizance.
Mohamed is awaiting a Jan. 31 hearing to determine if there is enough evidence to require him to stand trial on two felony counts of assault with a deadly weapon — a vehicle — and a hate crime allegation stemming from the alleged confrontation near La Brea and Oakwood Avenues.
The two men who escaped injury were walking on a sidewalk when they were targeted about 9:30 p.m. Nov. 23. LAPD Chief Michel Moore said the pair had just left a synagogue in the 300 block of La Brea Avenue and were walking toward Oakwood Avenue when Mohamed allegedly tried to run them over. He was arrested by Los Angeles police that night.
“He’s yelling out hateful remarks regarding Jewish heritage and regarding these people of faith,” the police chief said. “They watch him as he then turns his vehicle directly at them.”
Mohamed was taken into custody after he allegedly crashed into another vehicle while he was speeding away. A knife was found in his vehicle, according to the LAPD.
“Hate in America is on the rise,” Moore told reporters after Mohamed’s arrest. “That has to change. And a portion of that is that every community recognize that when such acts occur, that the department — LAPD — (and) that our federal and state partners will bring the full weight of the law to hold accountable those who believe that there would be some other type of response.”
The police chief said Mohamed, a U.S. citizen who was born in Mogadishu, Somalia, had been in the Los Angeles area for “a very short period of time,” but declined to elaborate. Investigators believe he was acting as a “lone individual” and not as a member of a group, but the investigation was continuing into his background and associations, including his social media connections, according to Moore.
At Mohamed’s first court appearance Nov. 27, Deputy District Attorney Richard Ceballos told a judge that authorities believe Mohamed traveled to California specifically to commit the crime, while an attorney from the Los Angeles County Public Defender’s Office countered that the prosecution’s theory was “purely speculative.”
At a subsequent hearing Nov. 30, Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Deborah Brazil ordered Mohamed’s bail to be doubled from $500,000 to $1 million and suspended criminal proceedings after defense attorney David L. Canas expressed doubt about the defendant’s mental competency. He was later found competent to stand trial.
The defense attorney — who asked the judge to take a fresh look at the amount of bail for his client — said there were many restrictions that could be imposed if the judge lowered Mohamed’s bail or granted the defense’s request to release him on his promise to return to court, and noted that authorities already have the defendant’s passport.
He noted that his client has “mental health problems,” and that it would be impossible for him to post $1 million bail.
Mohamed tried to speak several times during the court hearing, telling the judge at one point, “Your honor, I’m not a terrorist.”
Arguing for Mohamed’s bail to remain at $1 million, the prosecutor told the judge that the defendant had traveled outside the country, unsuccessfully tried to buy a gun and done some Internet searches on similar attacks.
In denying the defense’s request, the judge noted that she had considered electronic or GPS monitoring for Mohamed, who has no local ties, and determined that it would be “insufficient to ensure the public is protected.”
If convicted as charged, he could face up to eight years and eight months in state prison, according to the District Attorney’s Office.
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