Thursday, August 30, 2007


Man In Dismissed Rape Case Jailed
Immigration Officials Holding Man Pending Hearing

POSTED: 6:36 pm EDT August 27, 2007
UPDATED: 7:06 pm EDT August 27, 2007

ROCKVILLE, Md. -- A Liberian immigrant who had child rape charges against him dismissed because of the difficulty finding an interpreter was back in court Monday, and may face new legal troubles.

There was community uproar when a Montgomery County judge dismissed the rape charge for failure to give 23-year-old Mahamu Kanneh a speedy trial.

The judge and defendant both got hate mail. Kanneh moved back to Philadelphia, and then failed to show up for an appeal hearing, prosecutors said.

He was extradited back to Maryland, where prosecutors argued Monday that Kanneh should be held without bond pending their appeal to reinstate rape and sexual assault charges. Kanneh had been charged with raping a 7-year-old girl and molesting an 18-month-old girl in a Gaithersburg apartment.

An interpreter who speaks Vai, a West African dialect, was in court to assist Kanneh's public defender. The defense attorney successfully argued that it is unfair to jail Kanneh without knowing how long the prosecutor's appeal might take.

She pointed out that prosecutors had previously offered Kanneh a plea deal that would not have resulted in jail time.

"There was an offer of no jail time on misdemeanor charges," public defender Theresa Chernosky said. "So had he taken that he would have been out there anyway. So [for] them to say that he is a public risk is not really true."

Kanneh was ordered released on his personal recognizance, with special conditions that he report to pre-trial services, reside in Montgomery County, surrender travel documents and stay away from children.

But prosecutors had a surprise to ensure he's not released into the community -- at least not yet.

"A detainer was lodged against Mr. Kanneh by immigrations and customs," Montgomery State's Attorney John McCarthy said.

Kanneh will remain jailed pending a hearing to determine his immigration status, McCarthy said. His lawyer says he is here legally.

Prosecutors said their appeal attempting to reinstate child rape charges against him will be argued in February.

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