Yemeni man found innocent on felony charges

Wednesday, November 27, 2002

A man from Yemen was acquitted by a jury Tuesday night of felony charges of attempted rape, forcible sodomy and kidnapping.

The jury deliberated at the courthouse in Jackson for about two hours before clearing Naji Mohsen Monasser, 36, of accusations made by a former hotel maid, who said he sexually molested her Aug. 21, 2001, at the Ramada Inn in Miner, Mo.

The one-day trial was brought to Cape Girardeau County on a change of venue from Scott County. Monasser spent 14 months in jail before raising his $50,000 bond on Oct. 10, said defense attorney Malcolm Montgomery. His wife and children remain in Yemen, a small country between the Red Sea and Saudi Arabia on the Arabian Peninsula. Monasser is legally residing in the United States as a resident alien.

An interpreter translated during testimony given by Monasser, whose English is sometimes difficult to understand, his attorney said. Montgomery was unsure whether his client intends to remain in the United States or return to Yemen.

"He's very relieved," Montgomery said of his client's reaction to the verdict. "There was absolutely no evidence against him other than her story."

When taking the stand before Circuit Judge John W. Grimm, the 26-year-old woman said Monasser approached her as she was cleaning a room next to his and asked for towels. She said he asked if she'd like a $10 tip in a sexually suggestive manner, and when she rebuffed him he grabbed her and pulled her into his room.

She said she screamed and begged him to stop while he held her down, kissed her, fondled her and rubbed his body against her. She said after he finished, he got up and shoved a $10 bill in her pocket.

"He said, 'Thank you, you can go now,'" the woman told the court.

Inconsistent story

The woman's recounting of events was challenged by Montgomery, who pointed out several inconsistencies between her previous statements to investigators and attorneys and her testimony at trial.

He also asked why she had not received a medical exam if she had been attacked. The woman said a police officer told her it was unnecessary because no sexual intercourse occurred.

Montgomery asked why she washed and discarded the uniform she wore that day, knowing investigators would likely ask her for it. The woman said she was upset and confused and just wanted to be rid of the clothes.

To put the jury's focus back on the accused, Scott County Assistant Prosecutor Paul Boyd asked the woman if she had any doubt in her mind whether Monasser had sexually molested her, and she answered, "No."

A phone message left for Boyd was not returned late Tuesday.

mwells@semissourian.com

335-6611, extension 160

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