22 Years for Torturer OK With 10th Circuit

DENVER (CN) – Twenty-two years in prison is a fine sentence for an Ethiopian torturer who stole another man’s identity and fled to the United States to duck prosecution, the 10th Circuit ruled Tuesday.
     Kefelegne Alemu Worku used the name Habteab Berhe Temanu to hide in Denver until 2012, when immigration agents found him after several witnesses identified him as a member of the Ethiopian Red Terror campaign of the 1970s. He was accused of torturing and killing dozens of political prisoners while working as a prison guard, and stealing the identity of an Ethiopian man.
     “Four of the victims testified that they had been tortured by Mr. Worku,” 10th Circuit Judge Robert Bacharach wrote for the unanimous three-judge panel.
     A Denver federal judge Worku the maximum sentence on each of count: unlawful procurement of citizenship, visa fraud, and identity theft.
     Worku appealed, claiming he’d been subjected to double jeopardy, that he had permission to use Temanu’s identity, that there was no proof he came to America to dodge prosecution for human rights violations, and that the witnesses who identified him as a sadistic prison guard had been subjected to “improperly suggestive photo arrays.” He also claimed his sentence was “substantively unreasonable.”
     The 10th Circuit rejected all of his challenges.
     Though Worku claimed the third count of identity theft was the same as the first count, unlawful procurement of citizenship, the crimes are not “based on the same conduct,” Bacharach wrote.
     Nor was the judge persuaded by Worku’s claim that he had “lawful authority” to use Habteab Berhe’s identity, because he had permission from the man’s children.
     “Mr. Worku has not presented any cases suggesting that the children could lawfully allow another person to use their father’s identity,” Bacharach wrote. “Mr. Worku does not allege consent from the person whose identity was used: Mr. Berhe.”
     Bacharach cited the U.S. District Court ruling that Worku “had persecuted others ‘because of race, religion, national origin, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion,'” and lied about it. He also was accused of having paid a broker to help with the identity theft.
     “Together, these facts create a plausible inference that Mr. Worku wanted to come to the United States to avoid punishment for his human rights violations in Ethiopia,” Bacharach ruled.
     Nor was the court persuaded by Worku’s claim that “the photo arrays were unduly suggestive, resulting in a deprivation of due process.” Worku claims that of the four photo arrays used, his photo was “the brightest and clearest” in the first two. In the third, Worku said, his photo was the most “heavily shadowed.” He was the only man shown wearing a “large hooded winter jacket,” only one man had hair on his head, and two of the men didn’t have facial hair.
     “We agree that in the arrays, the lighting is slightly different for Mr. Worku’s photograph and some of the 16 other photographs,” Bacharach conceded, “but all are color photographs and depict Ethiopian men of similar ages. With these similarities among the men depicted, the court had the discretion to conclude that the differences in lighting would not have suggested which photograph to pick.”
     Worku’s “substantively unreasonable” claim implied that the 22-year sentence could not “be reconciled with the sentencing guidelines,” Bacharach said.
     But district court had taken into account that Worku “was capable of torture,” that he had “concealed his identity to avoid prosecution,” and that his crimes were serious because they “corrupted the established processes of immigration and limited the prospects of truly deserving immigrants.”
     Due to all of this, the district court was correct to impose the maximum sentence for each violation. Bacharach cited U.S. District Judge John Kane, whose sentence Worku appealed: “‘Congress has provided maximum sentences for the most egregious violations of these statutes. If this case is not egregious, I cannot imagine what case would be.'”

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