African Refugees Apparently Didn't Try to Sneak a Fake Bomb Through Sky Harbor Airport
Asa Shani, Shullu Gorado, and Luwiza Daman did not bring a fake bomb to the airport.
Charges have been dropped against three African refugees who were arrested in August after one of them was accused of trying tried to pass through security at Sky Harbor International Airport with a fake bomb.
Court documents suggested they were attempting to test the "effectiveness of screening procedures at the security checkpoint," after a Transportation Security Administration employee discovered the device -- a cellphone attached to a container holding "organic material."
That material turned out to be some sort of food, and the federal prosecutor's explanation is simply that "[n]ew information has come to light since the last hearing in the case."
"Based on the new information, further proeseuction is not in the interests of justice," U.S. Attorney Ann Birmingham Scheel writes in a March 12 filing seeking to dismiss the case.
What this "new information" includes is unknown, since a pair of U.S. Attorney's Office employees told the Associated Press it's not part of public record.
The three refugees were indicted on August 18 on charges of "concealment of a material fact within the jurisdiction of the Transportation Security Administration," which could have landed them in prison for up to five years.
Luwiza Daman, a refugee from Ethiopia, was the one who had the cellphone/food device at the airport.
Daman told investigators that a friend gave her the device and asked her to deliver it to someone in Des Moines, Iowa.
Following Daman's arrest, authorities picked up another African refugee, 25-year-old Shullu Gorado, a refugee from Eritrea, who was picked up at his house near 19th Avenue and Camelback Road.
Gorado told police he gave the device to Daman after a third African refugee, 34-year-old Shani Asa, also a refugee from Eritrea, gave it to him. He admitted to attaching the phone to the food and giving it to Gorado.
Daman's attorney didn't know exactly why the charges were dropped, but told the AP he suspected it was all a misunderstanding.
That's easy to believe, too, as transcripts from an October hearing on the case shows there was a whole lot of confusion going on in that courtroom.
The three speak a dialect called Kunama, and everyone appeared to have a difficult time getting the translation heard, as the interpreter was on the phone.
A judge cited there may have been "some doubt about the interpreter's level of skill," while an another interpreter of Kunama who was there testified the interpreter over the phone was "kind of answering for" one of the defendants.
Variations of "what?" show up in the transcript quite often, as they were trying to explain the whole reason they're refugees and what their culture's about.
Even the initial complaint filed by the feds notes how the language barrier was nearly impossible to overcome.
Apparently, someone finally figured it all out, and three African refugees now did not try to sneak a fake bomb into the airport.
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Phoenix New Times' biggest stories.