County attorney pleased with results of last week's trial
WORTHINGTON -- When a 19-year-old Worthington man was found guilty of felony robbery and fifth-degree assault last week, Nobles County Attorney Gordon Moore was pleased. Not so much that the man was found guilty, but that the victim reported the incident in the first place.
"This individual came forward, pointed out who did it and had the courage to testify at trial," Moore stated, adding that both he and Worthington Public Safety Director Mike Cumiskey find it encouraging.
Abeydew Demesse was convicted by a jury after a one-day trial. He was found not guilty of third-degree riot. The complaint states a man was riding his bike on Second Avenue when Demesse and another man knocked him off his bike, hit him in the face and demanded money. The victim showed his attackers his wallet, which was empty, and they left, he said.
The incident took place in late October, but authorities were unable to find a suspect until December, when the victim identified Demesse at a restaurant in downtown Worthington. Demesse was allegedly distracting staff while a juvenile took money from a tip jar at Taco Lupe. The victim of the October incident happened to be in the restaurant dining when staff called law enforcement about the alleged tip jar theft. When an officer arrived, the victim informed him Demesse was one of the people who had attacked him in October.
There have been a handful of cases, Moore said, involving victims similar to the man in this case.
"(The victims) are typically new immigrants to the community, by themselves on foot or on a bike," Moore stated. "They are being the subject of random, unprovoked attacks from individuals clearly looking for money."
The perpetrators in what are basically muggings are not using weapons, according to authorities.
"There is a reason these folks are being targeted," Moore said.
Authorities in Worthington have long been concerned that victims of crimes or in need of emergency medical care will not contact the appropriate help when it is needed because of fear. Victims who are undocumented or are from countries where relationships with authorities can be tenuous have been known to let crimes and emergencies go unreported.
"The good news in this case is that the victim came forward," Moore reiterated. "Victims can come forward to law enforcement and not be afraid of doing so -- that is the message I got from this case. That is the message we want to convey. We will prosecute cruel behavior to the full extent."
Moore said cases similar to the one involving Demesse have not yet been solved, and it was just happenstance that the identification in this case was made.
Demesse's status is not being called into question, as far as Moore is aware.
"He has been in our community for many years," he said. "The motive here was robbery. It was an effort to get money."
Sentencing for Demesse will take place after a pre-sentence investigation is completed.