HUDSON — A city man accused of nine felonies, including the rape of a child, was released from police custody after his arraignment in City Court on Thursday, prompting a firestorm of protest by the Columbia County District Attorney’s office.
Mohammed Ali, 67, of State Street, was arraigned on three class B felonies: one count of first-degree course of sexual conduct against a child; two counts of first-degree rape; and six class D felonies: one count of second-degree course of sexual conduct against a child and five counts of first-degree sexual abuse.
City Judge Brian Herman ordered Ali’s release after his arraignment Thursday on two conditions: that Ali surrender his passport and that he check in with the Columbia County Department of Probation once a day. It is unclear if Ali will be required to check in with the Probation Department by phone or in person.
Columbia County District Attorney Paul Czajka expressed frustration about the judge’s decision in court Thursday while requesting a restraining order on behalf of one of the alleged victims. Czajka argued that the depositions detailing the alleged crimes and signed under penalty of perjury by Hudson police detectives should have been enough to send the defendant to Columbia County Jail without bail.
Police based their arrest on forensic interviews with the alleged victims, photo arrays and an investigation into the accusations, according to court documents.
Ali is accused of sexually abusing two girls under the age of 11 multiple times between 2008 and 2011, according to nine criminal complaints filed against him by the Hudson Police Department. Some of the acts Ali is accused of include forcibly compelling a 5-year-old girl into sexual intercourse, touching one of the girls’ vaginas with his hands, and touching the breasts of one of his victims on multiple occasions.
The names of the victims cannot be disclosed in court documents under state civil rights law. The Register-Star does not identify alleged victims of sexual assault.
An arrest warrant for Ali was issued after the complaints were officially filed by Hudson police detectives on Sept. 3, 2019. Ali turned himself in to Hudson police at about 9:45 a.m. Thursday, according to the record of his arrest.
Czajka told the judge he is concerned for the safety of the alleged victims after Ali was released.
“These are children victims,” Czajka said, his voice raised. “This man is released on his own recognizance only to provide opportunity for him to go after them again.”
In response, Herman said, “As you’re well aware Mr. Czajka, I can’t set bail as a pre-emptive measure out of concern for future crimes, even though I would like to do that.”
Ali has no criminal history, according to police records. Herman brandished what appeared to be Ali’s U.S. passport in court, which Ali had surrendered earlier that day.
The court could have weighed several factors to determine bail was necessary, including Ali’s likelihood to return to court given the severity of the sentences that could be imposed if he is convicted, Czajka said.
The combined sentences of all the charges could equal life in prison for Ali, if convicted. The charge of first-degree course of sexual conduct is punishable by a minimum of 10 years and a maximum of 25 years in prison. First-degree rape carries a minimum of 5 years to a maximum of 25 years.
Herman said he would be happy to consider a bail application from the District Attorney’s office at Ali’s next scheduled court appearance on Nov. 21.
“If he comes back,” Czajka said.
Herman issued a full stay-away restraining order on behalf of one of the alleged victims at Ali’s arraignment, but declined to issue an order for the other.
Herman later clarified that he could not issue the second restraining order without knowing the name of the second victim.
“I can’t issue an order of protection without a name,” Herman said. “Unfortunately, I could not find any case law that gives me any guidance, but I felt I needed something, on the record, to tie this protected party to this case.”
Czajka argued that the name of the second victim already had been submitted to the court at Ali’s arraignment.
“For the life of me, your honor, I have never understood why this court — and this court alone — insists that I provide ‘good cause’ beyond an actual criminal complaint issued by the Hudson police department, under penalty of perjury, alleging this man committed the violent sexual offenses against two children,” Czajka said. “I would respectfully submit that that alone is sufficient, not only for an order of protection, but that, in addition, this man should have been remanded without bail.”
Herman granted the request for an order of protection for the second alleged victim once Det. Sgt. Jason Finn, the lead investigator, provided her name to the court.
Violent sexual offenses such as rape are exempt from the new state bail reform laws to take effect Jan. 1.
Defense Attorney Michael Howard did not immediately return a call for comment on Friday.
To reach reporter Amanda Purcell, call 518-828-1616 ext. 2500, or send an email to email@example.com, or tweet to @amandajpurcell.