Your correspondent ventured to downtown Minneapolis to visit the Federal courtroom and attend the morning session of the Feeding Our Future trial of seven (7) defendants associated with a now-closed Shakopee restaurant, Empire Cuisine and Market.

The prosecution rested their case yesterday. This morning, six of the seven defendants also rested, without calling their own witnesses. None of the six will be testifying in their own defense.

One defendant, Mukhtar Shariff (Defendant No. 21 in the overall case) put on witnesses today.

His first witness was a professor at the University of Minnesota, a paid defense witness expert, who testified in general terms on refugee entrepreneurialism, the informal economy, and business practices within the Somali diaspora community. He did not offer an opinion on the guilt or innocence of the accused.

The next witness was an attorney who arranged for a zoning variance for Shariff’s Afrique cultural and business center located near the Mall of America in Bloomington.

Prosecutors have accused Shariff of partially financing the Afrique project with ill-gotten proceeds from the free-food food programs. The attorney had no information on the source of the project’s financing.

Next to testify was the new CEO of Zawadi, who realized the Afrique vision by opening the cultural and business center in Bloomington, under new management and ownership, of course.

The fourth witness to testify in the morning session was a sales rep from SYSCO, the food wholesalers, who detailed selling $1.6 million worth of food to Shariff’s operation.

In the afternoon session (which I did not attend), leaders and members of the Dar Al-Farooq mosque in Bloomington testified on food distribution operations that took place at that location. Deena Winter of MN Reformer was there in the courtroom and tweeting. She reports that Shariff himself is expected to take the stand in his own defense.

Prosecutors agree that the defendants purchased and distributed large amounts of food, but assert that the defendants claimed to feed (and were paid for) far more than were actually fed.

A name that came up several times this morning was Mahad Ibrahim. He’s defendant No. 17 in the case, but is not among those on trial with this group.

The case is being heard by a jury of 18 (including 6 alternates). There are so many jurors, that they can’t all fit within the jury box, and some are seated next to the box.

On a personal note, the view from the 13th floor of the Federal courthouse is amazing.

Source link