I totally missed this

In April 2011, Raogo Ouedraogo was convicted of kidnapping and killing Donald Dietz, who disappeared from Saranac, Michigan in 2007. (In June, Ouedraogo’s alleged partner-in-crime, Rami Saba, was also convicted.) However, I was just looking at the No Body Murder Cases website and found a link to this article and this one from back in December: Janet Neff, the federal judge who presided over Ouedraogo’s trial, has overturned the jury verdict and issued a judgement of not guilty.

You can read Judge Neff’s 36-page ruling here. I present the highlights:

The government acknowledged that Saba was the central figure in the scheme to kidnap and kill Dietz and steal his money and that so much of the government’s case was about Saba that the jury probably wondered at times who was on trial. Nonetheless, it was the government’s ultimate contention that Ouedraogo knowingly and voluntarily agreed to help Saba execute his scheme and helped his friend commit the crime, despite presenting evidence of only Saba’s wrongdoing. […] The government’s case against Ouedraogo was based entirely on Ouedraogo’s friendship and association with Saba, primarily their telephone call records and travel in 2007, which the government alleged increased significantly from past years. The record was devoid of evidence of any link between Ouedraogo and Dietz, either directly or indirectly through Saba. […]

Thus, the charges against Ouedraogo were based, at most, on his presence in Grand Rapids and association with Saba at suspect times. […] Aside from the fundamental deficiency of proof of a kidnapping or death, even if these events took place, the proof of Ouedraogo’s involvement is far too attenuated to sustain his conviction of crimes charged. Further, for a conviction of kidnapping, the government must prove intent. The government must prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that Ouedraogo knowingly and willfully kidnapped, abducted, seized or confined Dietz. There is no such proof. The circumstances of the presumed death in this case are completely unknown. There is no evidence of how, when or where the death occurred. The evidence is so lacking that at trial the government offered no specific theory, or even speculation, of how or where the death occurred. [emphasis hers]

Absolutely nothing connects these time and location dots to a kidnapping and death. Nothing. Mere idle time and Saba’s momentary cellular phone location near Saranac (an area through which a state highway runs from Grand Rapids) does not move the government theory of the date and time of death from speculation to a reasonable inference. As Ouedraogo argues, the government again fits the facts to the theory instead of having the facts establish the theory.

Um…she’s got a point. If all she wrote in this ruling is correct, I would totally have acquitted him too. In America they’re not supposed to find you guilty of a crime just because you associate with a criminal.

The prosecution is appealing.

5 thoughts on “I totally missed this

  1. Donna February 19, 2012 / 8:14 pm

    WORCESTER — A Worcester man was ordered held without bail yesterday after he pleaded not guilty in Worcester Superior Court to murdering a man 18 years ago who allegedly did not follow through on a promise to perjure himself in court.

    Elias Samia, 45, of 78 Arlington St., faced Judge Janet Kenton-Walker. He and co-defendant, John R. Fredette, 49, of Woodcock Avenue, Saco, Maine, were arrested Wednesday, but Mr. Fredette is being held in Cumberland County Jail in Maine awaiting arraignment today in that county’s courthouse, Worcester District Attorney Joseph D. Early Jr. said.

    The body of Kevin Harkins, 36, was never found after he was called out of Suney’s Pub on Chandler Street Feb. 15, 1994, said Daniel Bennett, first assistant district attorney. Mr. Harkins was forced by Matteo Trotto, a friend of the two defendants, into Mr. Samia’s Chevrolet, the prosecutor said.

    Mr. Trotto, who is serving a 23- to 30-year prison term on drug violations, has not been indicted in the Harkins case.

    Mr. Bennett painted a grisly scene of what happened in Mr. Samia’s car before Millbury police stopped it on Route 146 a few hours after Mr. Harkins was called out of the pub, leaving behind cigarettes, money, his beer and a coat, Mr. Bennett said.

    The first assistant district attorney said evidence and witness statements will show “when he was in the car with Mr. Samia and Mr. Fredette and Mr. Trotto, he was shot to death.

    “Mr. Samia’s reaction in that car was not to be appalled as far as Mr. Harkins losing his life. He was upset and mad because the brain matter and body matter of Kevin Harkins sprayed onto him.”

    When Millbury police stopped the car and found only Mr. Samia and Mr. Fredette in it with blood on them, the two men explained they had been in fights at separate bars. Police later learned there had been no fights reported in either place, Mr. Bennett said. Mr. Samia lied to police about not having the key to his own trunk, the prosecutor said, but a witness will testify there was evidence of Mr. Harkins’ murder in the trunk.

    In the days leading up to the murder, Mr. Trotto had given Mr. Harkins money and cocaine, Mr. Bennett said. Mr. Harkins was to provide false testimony to help derail a drug case against Mr. Fredette, he said, “and he refused to do that. Mr. Fredette, Mr. Samia and Mr. Trotto turned on him and killed him the next night.” The murder allegedly occurred after Mr. Fredette had been sentenced to prison, but before he reported to it.

    Anthony Salerno, Mr. Samia’s lawyer, scoffed at the prosecution’s case. He said he had been Mr. Fredette’s lawyer in the 1994 drug case and he is unaware Mr. Harkins was to be a witness. He also said that while there are rumors and speculation about Mr. Samia’s complicity, “if the commonwealth had scientific evidence, I’m sure we’d have heard about it.”

    Mr. Salerno argued for bail and putting Mr. Samia on a GPS system.

    He said Mr. Samia has never fled during the 18 years he knew he was a suspect.

    A union roofer, Mr. Samia has lived in the area all his life, his parents are here, and he has 3-month-old and 9-year-old children for whom he regularly pays support, the lawyer said.

    Mr. Harkins’ family was in court yesterday, including his daughter, Jessica; her mother, who is Mr. Harkins’ ex-girlfriend, Mary Jane Simone; and Mr. Harkins’ sister, Karen Ramirez, who held the hand of retired Worcester police Lt. Timothy J. O’Connor.

    He was the original investigator in the case who kept in touch with investigators after his retirement.

    Asked about the difficulty of bringing a case in which there is no body, Mr. Early said cases without bodies have been won in court, and Mr. Harkins was declared dead in 2008. “We wouldn’t bring this case forward unless we believed we could bring it successfully to its conclusion,” he said.

    He paid tribute to the Worcester Police Department and the state police detectives attached to his office, saying, “There’s been relentless pursuit on the part of the detectives involved in this case to achieve justice in this matter. They’ve left no stone unturned. They have physical evidence, they have statements.”

    While time can be the enemy of an abduction case that is not investigated in the first 48 hours, Mr. Early said, it can help when relationships dissolve and people who were not willing to talk earlier have testified before the grand jury.

  2. Janessa February 19, 2012 / 10:07 pm

    I read in the paper that Michaela Garecht is one of the victims of Shermantine and Herzog, and they claim she is in the second well on the property. They were telling the truth about Chevelle Wheeler and the other girl who was found in the first well, do you think they’re also telling the truth about Michaela? May this case finally be solved?

    • Meaghan February 19, 2012 / 10:24 pm

      She MAY have been one of their victims. Time (and DNA testing, or dental records) will tell. I will reserve judgement till then.

      If she was one of their victims, I bet Tim Bindner is laughing his fool head off right now.

      • forthelost February 19, 2012 / 11:45 pm

        I never thought Binder was involved, mostly because his behavior at Angela Bugay’s grave was suspicious as all hell and DNA proved it was someone else.

        I’m still waiting for the DNA to come back with Chevelle Wheeler before I resolve her. I don’t think it’s anyone but her, but I want to be certain.

  3. Janessa February 19, 2012 / 11:22 pm

    I was thinking the exact same thing, as he was a suspect for so long, as was Philip Garrido after Jaycee Dugard was found.

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