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Abdillahi v. State

Court of Appeals of Minnesota

June 17, 2013

Hassan Mohamed Abdillahi, petitioner, Appellant,
State of Minnesota, Respondent.


Hennepin County District Court File No. 27-CR-08-52463.

Hassan M. Abdillahi, Bayport, Minnesota (pro se appellant)

Lori Swanson, Attorney General, St. Paul, Minnesota; and Michael O. Freeman, Hennepin County Attorney, Linda M. Freyer, Assistant County Attorney, Minneapolis, Minnesota (for respondent)

Considered and decided by Smith, Presiding Judge; Cleary, Judge; and Hooten, Judge.


Appellant challenges the district court's denial of his postconviction petition following a direct appeal, arguing that the district court erred by concluding that: (1) he failed to meet his burden of proof in support of his claim that he received ineffective assistance of both trial and appellant counsel; and (2) his allegations of error pertaining to the complaint and the admission of Spreigl evidence at trial were meritless and Knaffla-barred. We affirm.[1]


Appellant Hassan Mohamed Abdillahi was charged by complaint with second-degree intentional murder. A jury trial was held over several days in June 2009, during which appellant was represented by a private attorney, Ira Whitlock. Appellant was convicted of second-degree intentional murder.

At trial, the jury was presented with surveillance recordings showing a hooded individual walk past the victim, A.I., and S.M. as they stood in front of a commercial building, and then, less than one minute after A.I. and S.M. went inside the building, this same individual shot the victim. A.I. testified that appellant, whom he had known for ten years, walked by S.M. and him shortly before the shooting and he identified appellant as the hooded individual on the surveillance recordings. Another witness, K.O., testified that in September 2008, appellant told him that his cousin had been killed by S.A., a friend of the victim, and he intended to retaliate by killing the victim at the end of September. State v. Abdillahi, No. A09-2011, 2011 WL 691623, at *1–2 (Minn.App. Mar. 1, 2011), review denied (Minn. May 17, 2011).

Appellant directly appealed his conviction to this court in November 2009 and was initially represented by the appellate public defender. After his appellate public defender filed a brief on March 23, 2010, appellant requested that she file a motion for disclosure of certain documents by the state and "a motion for a stay and remand for an evidentiary hearing" relative to his claim that he received ineffective legal assistance from his trial attorney. The appellate public defender responded that she would not file those motions because no further documents were needed for the appeal and because she did not believe that appellant's trial attorney was ineffective. Appellant subsequently filed a pro se supplemental brief, arguing, among other things, that he received ineffective assistance of trial counsel. A nonoral hearing was set before this court on September 8, 2010.

On August 16, 2010, appellant filed, pro se, a motion to stay the appellate proceedings pending a postconviction proceeding. Appellant subsequently filed a waiver of his right to representation by the appellate public defender's office, and filed a second pro se motion to stay appellate proceedings pending a postconviction proceeding.

On September 7, 2010, appellant's newly retained appellate counsel, Ronald Sieloff, filed a motion requesting a continuance of the nonoral hearing, leave to have oral argument and file an enlarged reply brief, and a stay of the appellate proceedings until there was a decision on appellant's pro se motion to stay. This court granted the request for oral argument and additional briefing, and scheduled oral argument for December 13, 2010, but denied appellant's request for a stay. Appellant subsequently sent Sieloff two letters, again asking him to request a stay from this court. Sieloff responded that he would like to have appellant's trial counsel, Whitlock, review the supplemental brief to be filed with this court, because Sieloff was not at the trial and had limited knowledge of the trial. Sieloff filed his supplemental brief on October 15, 2010.

On November 29, 2010, appellant sent a letter to Sieloff indicating that he had recently received an affidavit from a witness to the April 8, 2008, shooting and death of appellant's cousin, which indicated that the witness, not appellant's cousin, was the intended target of the shooting. Appellant wanted to present this evidence to indicate that he was not motivated by his cousin's murder to kill the victim in this case. Sieloff responded that this affidavit did not have the significance appellant placed on it, that this court had already denied a motion for a stay and was unlikely to grant a second motion, and that appellant's alleged newly discovered evidence would be properly addressed in a petition for postconviction relief. On December 10, 2010, Sieloff nonetheless filed a motion for a stay of the appellate proceedings based on the affidavit and trial counsel's allegedly ineffective assistance. Sieloff also forwarded for filing appellant's "pro se 'memorandum concerning appellant's counsel' and an amended pro se supplemental brief arguing ineffective assistance of appellate counsel." On December 17, 2010, this court denied appellant's request for a stay and deemed the appeal submitted for nonoral consideration as of December 13, 2010. Moreover, we refused appellant's new filings on the grounds that "[t]his court cannot address a claim of ineffective assistance of appellate counsel on direct appeal." Appellant petitioned the supreme court for further review, but that petition was denied.

On March 1, 2011, this court filed its opinion on direct appeal. We concluded that the district court did not err in allowing Spreigl evidence that appellant shot S.A. in September 2007 to show a pattern of violence between S.A. and his associates and appellant and his family, and that this evidence was "relevant and material because it would assist the jurors in understanding the pattern of retaliatory violence that preceded the charged offense." Abdillahi, 2011 WL 691623, at *2–4. This court also concluded that (1) the evidence was sufficient to sustain the verdict; (2) the district court did not err in its instructions to the jury regarding the Spreigl evidence; (3) several statements by the prosecutor did not constitute misconduct and a reference to appellant's religion was harmless; (4) the district court ...

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