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Attacker of ND convenience store clerk seeks mercy, sentenced to 26 years

Wearing headphones to listen to a translator, Abdulrahman Ali asks for mercy and forgiveness while addressing Judge Tom Olson Wednesday, Oct. 18, 2017, in the Cass County District Courtroom during his sentencing in connection for the rape of a Mapleton convenience store clerk in 2015. He was sentenced to 26 years in prison followed by lifetime supervision. Dave Wallis / Forum News Service

FARGO — A man convicted of sexually assaulting a Mapleton, N.D., convenience store clerk was sentenced in Cass County District Court on Wednesday, Oct. 18, to 26 years in prison followed by lifetime supervision.

Speaking through an interpreter, 37-year-old Abdulrahman Ali told Judge Tom Olson that he was mentally ill at the time of the crime.

"This is not justification of what happened, I request mercy from the court," a tearful Ali said.

Olson said no sentence could restore the mental well-being of the victims connected to the incident, which included another store employee and a customer who witnessed some of the assault. The judge said he wished "the very best for the victims of this crime."

Prosecutor Ryan Younggren had asked Judge Olson to give Ali life in prison with the possibility of parole, which would have meant Ali would have had to serve at least 30 years before he was eligible for parole.

Ali's attorney, Stormy Vickers, had asked for 20 years followed by lifetime supervision.

"This is a horrendous crime that deserves substantial punishment," Olson said in handing down the 26-year sentence, under which Ali could be released after serving 85 percent of that time, or roughly 22 years.

Ali was given credit for having already served nearly two years.

The maximum possible sentence Ali faced was life in prison without parole for his conviction on a charge of gross sexual imposition. He was also convicted of kidnapping, aggravated assault and two counts of terrorizing.

Earlier this summer, Ali agreed to the facts in the case and Olson found him criminally responsible for the convenience store attack that happened in December 2015.

According to court documents and an investigator's court testimony: Ali entered Gordy's Travel Plaza in Mapleton shortly after it opened on Dec. 2, 2015, and moments later pulled the clerk into the women's bathroom. He then forced the clerk to remove her clothes, and he took off his own clothes before trying to have sex with her.

Younggren said Wednesday that the victim suffered numerous physical injuries including broken ribs and black eyes. He said the woman's physical wounds healed, but the attack shook "the foundations of how she approaches life."

Both Younggren and Vickers said Ali suffers from mental illness, but Younggren added, "Is he (Ali) brutally dangerous? Yes."

Arguing for a 20-year sentence, Vickers told the court Ali's illness was treatable. "This is something we have control over," he added.

Attorney Steven Mottinger also spoke to the court, saying that Ali's family had hired him to speak on the family's behalf. "They are embarrassed. The Somali community is embarrassed," Mottinger said.

He said Ali's family was requesting a sentence of 10 years in prison, which would give the defendant "some chance at a life."