A woman jailed last fall for refusing to stand for the judge during her terrorism trial in federal court is asking to have her record cleared of the judge's contempt-of-court finding.
U.S. Judge Michael E. Davis had sentenced Amina Farah Ali to serve 100 days in jail -- five days for each time she did not stand when court staff gave the "all rise" call. Ali told the judge that she would not stand up, citing her understanding of the teachings of the Muslim prophet Muhammad. She later changed her mind and began standing when requested.
Ali is one of two Rochester women convicted of conspiring to help terrorists in their native Somalia, by raising money for charity and sending some of it there. She and Hawo Mohamed Hassan are awaiting sentencing.
On Tuesday, Ali's lawyer, Daniel Scott appeared before a three-judge panel in the U.S. Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals to argue that Amina should not have to serve the 100 days. Assistant U.S. Attorney Mike Cheever spoke on behalf of the government.
Ali refused to stand during her trial, citing of her interpretation of Islamic teachings. She cited a reference in which Muhammad told people who stood up when they saw him that they "overhonored" him.
Davis found her in contempt of court and ordered her jailed. After a few nights in jail and a talk with some elders from her community, Ali begain standing. Davis told her lawyer that he would entertain a motion to purge the contempt finding.
On Tuesday, Scott asked the appellate judges to set aside the contempt conviction. He said he filed a motion to purge the conviction, but that has been pending since the trial.
Ali is in jail pending her sentencing because her bond was revoked, but she has not served any of the 100-day sentence for contempt.
Cheever told the panel that Davis basically denied Amina's motion to purge the contempt order by not ruling on it.
"This case, in particular a terrorism trial, it is difficult to second-guess a judge for trying to maintain control. I don't think this court should second-guess Judge Davis," Cheever said.
One of the appellate judges, Diana Murphy, asked Cheever whether Ali had said anything contemptuous to the judge at the trial's end.
Cheever said, as he recalled, Ali told Davis and other court members that she was going to heaven and they were going to hell.
The judges said they would take the contempt issue under advisement.