Abdullahi, 22, received double the state guideline sentence for the May 25 assault, which left Edwin Daniel with a severe head injury.
"It's affecting me real bad," Daniel, 40, said in court. "I can't eat any food that I like and have a decent taste — everything tastes like burnt."
Daniel said his memory is "shot." When he got out of the hospital after the attack, "I was at a first-grade level — I couldn't read."
Daniel, who drove an airport shuttle for a downtown St. Paul hotel, regularly visited the SuperAmerica gas station at 296 E. Seventh St. to gas up his vehicle. A few days before the assault, he defended a female clerk who was being harassed by a group of men.
About 3:00 a.m. May 25, the same men turned against Daniel — several wielding baseball bats.
Abdullahi was one of four charged in the incident. Police are seeking a fifth man, and none of his co-defendants has disclosed his identity, said prosecutor David Miller.
Abdullahi maintains that, while he did wield a bat, he did not strike Daniel. During a portion of the surveillance photos and video from SuperAmerica, Daniel is out of camera range — making it difficult to determine whose swinging bats are hitting their target.
Abdullahi's attorney, Deborah Ellis, spoke at length about the respect he has won in the Somali-American community since he and his family arrived here as refugees 10 years ago.
A college student who received a full scholarship out of high school, Abdullahi has worked to tutor younger students and assisted the elderly since he was 15, Ellis said.
She said he was with the wrong crowd and "it was not his beef" that led to the beating. In fact, Ellis said, Abdullahi helped defuse the previous week's confrontation.
"Mr. Abdullahi is a 22-year-old man who is hoping that his life and his future are not decided by 30 seconds of a very bad decision," Ellis said.
Given the chance to speak, Abdullahi asked the injured man to forgive him. "My heart's apology goes to Mr. Daniel," he said.
Judge Joanne Smith said she received some 54 letters on Abdullahi's behalf. But she was not convinced that he should receive even the guideline sentence of 21 months, much less the probation that Abdullahi wanted.
"This particular incident was so out of proportion to anything any reasonable person would attempt to do," Smith said. She said she agreed with Daniel that the crime could have been charged as an attempted murder, rather than an assault, "and perhaps it should have been."
Abdullahi pleaded guilty Oct. 5 as charged to second-degree assault. He has 188 days of custody credit.
Members of Abdullahi's family declined to comment following the hearing.
Two of the other attackers have been sentenced: Abdiaziz Hirsi, 22, also received 3 1/2 years in prison; Zakaria Yusuf, 21, received six months in jail for serving as a lookout. The man described as the ringleader of the assault, Ahmed Hirsi, also pleaded guilty and is to be sentenced Dec. 21.
Emily Gurnon can be reached at 651-228-5522
Source: Poineer Press