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From 2006: Jury finds Khalid Adem guilty; sentence is 10 years

Khalid Adem cries Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2006, in a Lawrenceville, Ga., courtroom after being convicted of the genital mutilation of his 2-year-old daughter. Adem, 30, an Ethiopian immigrant, was found guilty of aggravated battery and cruelty to children. Prosecutors said he used scissors to remove his daughter's clitoris in his family's Atlanta-area apartment in 2001. Adem was sentenced to 10 years in prison.  (AP Photo/Atlanta Journal & Constitution, Nick Arroyo)
Khalid Adem cries Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2006, in a Lawrenceville, Ga., courtroom after being convicted of the genital mutilation of his 2-year-old daughter. Adem, 30, an Ethiopian immigrant, was found guilty of aggravated battery and cruelty to children. Prosecutors said he used scissors to remove his daughter's clitoris in his family's Atlanta-area apartment in 2001. Adem was sentenced to 10 years in prison. (AP Photo/Atlanta Journal & Constitution, Nick Arroyo)

Credit: Nick Arroyo

Credit: Nick Arroyo

NOTE: This article originally published on Nov. 2, 2006 in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

UPDATE: Georgia man deported following conviction in genital mutilation case

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.

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 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.

The verdict shocked many of Adem's supporters who openly sobbed in the courtroom. Adem, 31, had cried every day of the trial. He sobbed again as the verdict was read, then watched in horror as his girlfriend passed out in the courtroom and was removed on a stretcher.

Defense attorney W. Mark Hill confers with paralegal Jeanie Costarides in court during jury selection. (VINO WONG/AJC staff)
Defense attorney W. Mark Hill confers with paralegal Jeanie Costarides in court during jury selection. (VINO WONG/AJC staff)

Moments after the verdict, Adem's defense attorney, W. Mark Hill, stood outside the courtroom in disbelief.

"I just really thought the jury would come back with a 'not guilty' verdict," Hill said. "I don't know what happened."

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.

Fortunate Adem looks at ADA Marty First answering questions about her daughter's circumcision Wednesday afternoon, October 25, 2006 at GJAC. (VINO WONG/AJC staff)
Fortunate Adem looks at ADA Marty First answering questions about her daughter's circumcision Wednesday afternoon, October 25, 2006 at GJAC. (VINO WONG/AJC staff)

Doomed from the start 

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 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.

"I really think that witness left the impression that those time sheets were forged," said Colin Dube, the uncle of the young victim. "[Adem] lied on the stand and I am glad the jury saw through that."

Assistant district attorney, Marty First looking over some evidence that he is going to present at the trial of Khalid Adem.  (NICK ARROYO/AJC staff)
Assistant district attorney, Marty First looking over some evidence that he is going to present at the trial of Khalid Adem.  (NICK ARROYO/AJC staff)

Credit: Nick Arroyo

Credit: Nick Arroyo

After the manager's testimony, Adem was called to the stand to defend himself. Tearful but steadfast, Adem denied many times that he circumcised his daughter. But a combative cross examination may have harmed Adem's credibility. During questioning, Assistant District Attorney Marty First caught Adem in two lies. First mentioned the lies to jurors during his closing statements.

First said Adem had lied about the date and the contents of a restraining order that his wife filed against him in 2000. Even though the restraining order had nothing to do with the crime, First said jurors couldn't believe Adem's testimony because of that lie.

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 that 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.

Judge Richard T. Winegarden speaking to the lawyers during the trial of Khalid Adem.  (NICK ARROYO/AJC staff)
Judge Richard T. Winegarden speaking to the lawyers during the trial of Khalid Adem.  (NICK ARROYO/AJC staff)

Credit: Nick Arroyo

Credit: Nick Arroyo

A quick decision 

Farrar admitted that he had been suspended but said he was appealing the suspension. First sarcastically referred to Farrar as "Dr. Black Cloud" during his closing argument and told the jury his testimony couldn't be trusted.

"Of all the psychologists in the world they brought you, Dr. Black Cloud," said First. "A man who is being investigated."

All of this could have been the reason that a jury of seven women and five men returned the quick guilty verdict Wednesday. Jurors did not comment after the verdict and were escorted to their cars by deputies.

Despite the verdict, Adem still professed his innocence before he was led from the courtroom in handcuffs. Fortunate Adem said the verdict was vindication for her family and she urged the judge to give Adem the maximum penalty of 40 years in prison.

"Show no mercy," Fortunate Adem urged the judge. "No mercy was shown to my daughter when she was mutilated."

Hill, the defense attorney, said he plans to challenge the verdict.

"We will appeal," said Hill. "My client maintains that he is innocent. And I believe him."

Judge 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."