After unearthing previously-withheld documents, today, Hamdi Mohamud renewed her fight to hold St. Paul Police Officer Heather Weyker accountable for having Mohamud unjustly arrested and imprisoned for two years. The documents, which were not turned over during Mohamud’s previous multi-year lawsuit against Weyker, confirm that Officer Weyker was working as a local police officer when she framed Mohamud for a crime Mohamud did not commit. This is a pivotal turn in the case, as Weyker has repeatedly argued that, as a cross-deputized member of a state-federal task force, she was acting exclusively as a federal officer, which makes her effectively immune from accountability.
“These new documents establish what we’ve always known—that Officer Weyker was acting as a state officer when she violated Hamdi’s constitutional rights and that the government will do whatever it takes to shield Officer Weyker from accountability,” said Senior Attorney Patrick Jaicomo. “For years Weyker and the Department of Justice have argued that Officer Weyker was acting only as a federal officer while pursuing the investigation that led to Hamdi’s arrest. Yet the new information and documents filed with the court make it clear that was not the case. Officer Weyker was running a predominantly state investigation, and she was working on a task force led by state actors. So, we’ve asked the court to revisit the matter of accountability in light of these new revelations, which undermine the credibility and integrity of Weyker and the government’s entire defense.”
The case began in 2011, when Hamdi—who was only 16 at the time—witnessed a fight between a group of girls. The fight escalated and one of the girls—Muna—pulled out a knife, struck one of the girls with it, and threatened the others, including Hamdi. The victims called the police, which only made matters worse. Unbeknownst to anyone, Muna was Officer Weyker’s star witness in a contrived human trafficking investigation. If Muna were arrested, Weyker’s case could have fallen apart, so Weyker messaged the officer on the scene and convinced him—through lies and deception—to arrest Hamdi and the other girls and to let Muna walk free.
Weyker’s lies compounded when she filed a federal criminal complaint and affidavit the following day. The affidavit included fabricated facts and information she knew to be false. She also withheld facts showing that Hamdi and her friends were innocent—all with the intention that the girls would continue to be detained without probable cause. As a result of Weyker’s lies, Hamdi served two years in prison before the charges against her were dismissed before trial.
After being released, Hamdi sued Officer Weyker to hold her accountable. Because she was a St. Paul officer cross-deputized as a federal marshal, Hamdi sued Officer Weyker as both a state officer and a federal officer. In response, Weyker and the government argued that Weyker was entitled to qualified immunity, and even if not, she should be treated as a federal officer only and granted absolute federal immunity.
Because the U.S. 8th Circuit Court of Appeals previously held that Weyker was not entitled to qualified immunity—because “a reasonable officer would know that deliberately misleading another officer into arresting an innocent individual to protect a sham investigation is unlawful”—the 8th Circuit did not grant Weyker qualified immunity. But it held that Weyker could not be sued to the extent she was acting strictly as a federal officer. With IJ’s help, Hamdi appealed the issue of federal immunity to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the Court did not take it up.
Even so, the 8th Circuit held that, if Hamdi could show Officer Weyker was acting as a state officer when she violated the Constitution, Hamdi’s case could move forward. With the newly discovered documents, Hamdi has returned to the federal district court to prove Officer Weyker was acting as a state officer. The documents state in plain terms that the St. Paul Police Department (Weyker’s employer) and the FBI (Weyker’s sponsor for cross-deputization) both understood that she continued to act as a local officer while on the task force. But the government is fighting to dismiss the case without allowing Hamdi to provide the court with any new evidence.
“It is indisputable that Heather Weyker’s lies led to an innocent girl being imprisoned for years,” said IJ Attorney Marie Miller. “Weyker’s shield from accountability hinged on the now-discredited fact that she was working only as a federal officer at the time. But she wasn’t. These new documents undermine the government’s defense and show that Weyker was acting as a local law enforcement officer when she framed Hamdi. Thus, she must be held accountable.”
This case is part of IJ’s Project on Immunity and Accountability which is devoted to a simple idea: If we the people must follow the law, our government must follow the Constitution.