According to the courts he's in the clear, but that doesn't seem to be doing Abdulahi Mahamad a whole hell of a lot of good.
Thanks to a sex-crime accusation levelled against him by his former common-law wife - who reportedly admitted to police she had lied to them in a previous statement - Mahamad's mugshot and fingerprints are still on permanent file with the Edmonton Police Service. And the cops won't give them back.
"The day I was arrested, the police questioned me for hours," said Mahamad, a Somali-Canadian who's called Edmonton home since 1987.
"Nothing to eat and I hadn't had breakfast. I was fingerprinted and photographed and taken to a holding cell in handcuffs and leg shackles.
"There were two other guys waiting in a line at the Remand Centre and they asked me what I was in for. I told them, and one of them said to me, 'Better not tell anyone else that. That's a good way to get yourself killed here.'
"I did not sleep that night."
The circumstances surrounding Mahamad's arrest are the subject of a lawsuit he's filed against police and his accusers. The claims he makes in that lawsuit have not been proven in court.
But the big unanswered question about Mahamad's case seems to be why he was charged in the first place.
When Mahamad made his one appearance before a judge in January 2001 on charges of sexually assaulting his kids, his criminal lawyer at the time showed the judge a letter from an EPS officer to Mahamad's civil lawyer, indicating the shaky nature of the evidence against him.
The Dec. 15, 2000 letter from an EPS North Division sergeant deals in part with Seinab Addow, Mahamad's ex-common-law wife and one of his accusers, and a previous sexual assault accusation she had made against Mahamad to Calgary cops in At the time, Mahamad and Addow were fighting a messy child custody battle. In May 2000, an EPS constable went out to Addow's residence to talk about an allegation of "uttering threats" she'd also made against Mahamad.
"During the course of (the) interview... Addow apparently admitted that she falsely lodged the 1997 sexual assault complaint against Mahamad in efforts to regain custody of her children," said the EPS letter.
Mahamad's hearing was brief; he was released that evening. The charges were stayed in March, and the 12-month period for reactivating them has lapsed. From a legal standpoint, it's as if Mahamad had never been charged.
But if Addow admitted there was nothing to her past sexual assault complaint, why did police proceed in the first place with laying charges against him on the basis of fresh complaints made, in part, by Addow in late 2000/early 2001?
"The woman admitted she'd made false allegations," said Barry Massing, Mahamad's civil lawyer. "Why didn't police charge her with obstruction of justice, or mischief? To this day we don't know, and the police have never explained themselves."
Mahamad, meanwhile, has more immediate problems. He's been trying to convince the EPS to erase the file they started on him when he was charged - so far, without success.
"I was wrongly charged. They have my picture and my fingerprints," he said. "The information is on CPIC (Canadian Police Information Centre, a federal database on people who've been charged with crimes).
"What happens if I get a traffic ticket, or I am stopped by a customs or immigration officer, and they find this information? How long must I live with this indignity?"
Mahamad's position is especially delicate. As a Somali Muslim who has a pilot's licence, he admits he's already ripe for profiling by federal agencies.
EPS spokesman Dean Parthenis confirmed the police have a "policy" of retaining files from serious cases for forensic purposes - to help with identification if the ex-accused is linked to another crime. "I don't believe that information goes to CPIC," he said.
Criminal lawyer Robbie Davidson said he thinks Mahamad's best bet might be a Charter challenge. A recent Ontario Court of Appeal case opened the door to citizens challenging police possession of personal files in cases where charges are stayed or dropped.
"I don't think the police have any justification for this policy," he said. "I think Mr. Mahamad's chances of winning a Charter case would be pretty good."
For Abdulahi Mahamad, it's about payback. And he wants to take it out one bite at a time: from the cops who arrested him, the police chief, his ex-, his daughter.
This is the sad story of a very unhappy family unit. Mahamad, a Somali-Canadian who's been living in Edmonton since 1987, was charged by Edmonton city cops last year with sexual assaults against two daughters from two different past relationships.
Mahamad was married at the time, living with his children from the new marriage. He was handcuffed by police in his own home, in front of his wife and infant children.
The charges didn't stick. The Crown stayed them in March 2001, just weeks after they were laid. According to Mahamad's criminal lawyer at the time, the prosecutor came to the conclusion that the evidence simply wasn't there.
"The evidence was thin and contradictory," said David Cunningham. "The charges were dropped as soon as the evidence got the attention from the Crown that it deserved.
"I wasn't aware Mr. Mahamad was suing. Good for him."
In May 2001, Mahamad filed suit against five city cops - Stephen Matthews, Robert Pagee, Keith Smith, F. Metselaar and Brian Stadel; against his former common-law, Seinab Addow; against his adult daughter from an earlier marriage back in Africa, and against Chief Bob Wasylyshen himself.
Most parties to this tangled case are staying mum for the moment, as it's all still before the courts. Mahamad himself refuses to be quoted on the lawsuit.
So what we can tell you is mostly what's included in the court documents (keep in mind, of course, that none of these statements have been proven in court).
To start with, Mahamad and Addow had been engaged in a daggers-drawn custody battle over their young daughter since 1997. The child's custody was bounced back and forth between the parents (who were never married) several times.
In his statement of claim, Mahamad accuses both Addow and his adult daughter from his previous marriage of making the false accusations that led to him being charged.
"The defendants ... have acted in a high-handed and oppressive manner and with disregard to the said plaintiff's rights to freedom ..." says the claim.
As for the cops, Mahamad accuses them of busting into his home "without legal authority," using "unnecessary and excessive force" in handcuffing him and repeatedly refusing to tell him why he was being charged.
Mahamad and his current wife, Susan Kathy Kolbowicz, are together claiming $300,000 in damages, plus costs.
In their statement of defence, the police - the chief included - deny all of Mahamad's allegations.
Their statement insists the investigation of Mahamad was "at all times, conducted in a reasonable, thorough, competent manner and in good faith."
The police claim that Mahamad refused to come to EPS headquarters to be interviewed, that he was advised of his rights when arrested, that Mahamad became "agitated" during the arrest, and that he was given several opportunities to contact his lawyer.
The police also insist they used only "proper, reasonable and necessary force" with Mahamad, and deny they "threatened or intimidated him" in any way.
In her statement of defence, Addow also denies all of Mahamad's claims. She alleges the EPS contacted her as part of their investigation of Mahamad.
She's also launched a "counterclaim" against Mahamad, claiming his "malicious, frivolous and vexatious" claims are intended to cause her the same "harm, mental anguish, public embarrassment and humiliation" Mahamad claims she was trying to inflict on him.
Addow's asking for an $800,000 award against Mahamad.
The adult daughter, meanwhile, appears not to have filed a statement of defence. In an affidavit, Mahamad claims to have established his estranged daughter's whereabouts, but says she has been deliberately evading the process server. He also claims that he's learned his daughter has recently started to wear traditional Muslim dress, including a veil, which he interprets as an attempt by her to avoid being identified by the process server.
The daughter did not return a telephone message from The Sun yesterday. The case goes back to the Court of Queen's Bench on Oct. 30.
EDMONTON homemaker "John Smith" (names have been changed to comply with a publication ban) was serving his two children breakfast January 11 when the doorbell rang. When his wife answered the door, five policemen barged into their living room and, without explanation, handcuffed Mr. Smith in front of his family. He says he was then taken, bewildered, to the Edmonton Police Service's downtown headquarters, where he was strip-searched, shackled and detained until 7:30 p.m. the following day. "It was utterly humiliating," Mr. Smith recalls. "They treated me as though I had committed a heinous crime."
Mr. Smith's "crime," he would discover, was based on allegations of child sexual abuse made by his former common-law wife, "Mary Jones," whose history of making unsubstantiated claims to win custody of the couple's daughter was known to police. Even more disconcerting is that, before the arrest, Mr. Smith had repeatedly offered to meet police to discuss the latest allegations, but was rebuffed. He has now filed a $300,000 lawsuit against Edmonton police and his accusers, none of whom chose to comment on the claim.
Mr. Smith's arrest is only one part of a 10-year nightmare. He and Ms. Jones, both immigrants from Africa, met in Edmonton in 1989. According to Mr. Smith, their relationship deteriorated when Ms. Jones insisted on collecting welfare against his wishes and became violent when confronted. By 1991, Ms. Jones had moved to a different city with the couple's infant daughter, "Amy."
In 1997, Calgary Social Services investigated allegations that her mother was physically abusing Amy, then six. "They found 21 permanent marks on her body and placed her in foster care, along with a six-month-old baby," Mr. Smith says. "It was then that [Mary] accused me of being a rapist and child molester."
Following a criminal record check and psychological assessment, Mr. Smith was given temporary custody of Amy. In May 1999, a Family Court judge ordered joint custody of the child on condition neither parent leave the province without written consent from the other. Within a week of obtaining the child, Ms. Jones disappeared. When finally located in another province, she was forced, by court order, to produce the letter of consent she claimed Mr. Smith had signed. According to a December 2000 document quoting Edmonton Sergeant Randy Schreiner, however, forensic examination revealed the letter was "fraudulently manufactured."
Ms. Jones' credibility came under a cloud again a year later, when she told the Edmonton police Mr. Smith had threatened to kill her six months earlier. During the interview, she also allegedly admitted fabricating her 1997 sexual assault complaint against him in order to gain custody of her daughter.
Mr. Smith, in turn, complained that his ex-wife was using police to harass him. Upon reviewing the case, Alberta Justice officials concluded that "none of the potential charges against either of these two parties should be re-visited and laid." Shortly after, Sgt. Schreiner assured Mr. Smith the police would "conduct no further investigations into historical sexual assault allegations levied by your ex-wife against you."
The promise was short-lived. Mr. Smith says Ms. Jones collaborated against him with his elder daughter "Sara," now 20, who came to Canada from Africa in 1998 through his sponsorship. "When [Sara] moved in, she was rebellious and didn't expect to work hard at her studies," he explains. "She was unable to access welfare as long as she was under my care. Then she began spending time with my ex-wife. It was the perfect recipe for an accusation."
Shortly before his January arrest, Mr. Smith says his ex-wife and his daughter told police he had sexually assaulted and threatened both Amy and Sara in 1998. Sara, he says, then moved out and was able to access student assistance.
The Crown stayed charges against Mr. Smith in March. It is revealing, he observes, that no investigation has been made concerning the safety of the two young children in his care, and that he maintains legal access to 11-year-old Amy. Mr. Smith has yet to learn details about the crimes he supposedly committed, or why he was arrested in the manner of a dangerous criminal.
Mr. Smith's lawyer, Barry Massing of Edmonton, says his client's treatment by police was appalling. "Their aggression was completely unnecessary," says Mr. Massing, who describes Mr. Smith as reasonable, articulate and a credit to the community. "Unfortunately," Mr. Massing adds, "I'm afraid this sort of thing happens more often than we realise."