Trial and Tribulations

Naim Amini fled Afghanistan to build a new life, a life now lost in the translation.

So he fled again, this time to Colorado, where his brother had immigrated during the war.

The family of six -- by now Amini and his wife had a second daughter, Laila -- arrived in Denver in 1990. Claiming he would be killed if he returned to Afghanistan, Amini asked for and was granted political asylum.

He got a job as a dishwasher, then as a courtesy clerk at the King Soopers on Dry Creek Road. His sons went to work in restaurants, while his daughters went to school. They saved enough money to buy a house in Highlands Ranch. Amini's wife died of cancer in 1994. His heart broken, a widower in a foreign land, he kept bagging groceries, because King Soopers offers good family medical insurance and it's hard to find a job with benefits in America when you don't speak English, even for a college-educated former army officer.

Heartfelt appeal: Attorney Paul Grant has requested a new trial for Naim Amini -- a trial he'd understand.
John Johnston
Heartfelt appeal: Attorney Paul Grant has requested a new trial for Naim Amini -- a trial he'd understand.

"Life had taken me up, to where I was a man of stature in Afghanistan, and now life had taken me down, to where I was holding this little position to provide for my family," he says.

Tasha couldn't say exactly when the other assaults had occurred, because she'd been over at Laila's house four or five times in August. Sometimes Amini didn't touch her, she said, and sometimes he did. The second time it happened was this one night when Tasha had been sitting on the couch watching television with Laila and her father, who were lying side by side on the floor. Tasha told Deputy Carnahan that Laila's father had called out to Tasha to come lie beside him, and when she did, he touched her breast again. She could remember no other details.

The third time, she said, she was at the foot of a staircase in Laila's house when Laila yelled at her to come upstairs. Tasha started up the stairs, but then Laila's father grabbed her from behind, pulled her into a hug and put both his hands on her breasts.

Carnahan listened, noting that Tasha was nervous but highly articulate for her age.

"She took her time before she said anything as far as how to describe it," Carnahan later recalled. "Especially when she would go into how his hand was placed or how long it was there or anything of that nature. She hesitated on describing those incidents. She didn't cry. She kept her eyes on the table."

The afternoon of September 5, 1998, three days after his youngest daughter's friend had accused him of sexual assault, Amini was bagging groceries when his manager told him a police officer wanted to see him in the back of the store.

That morning, Douglas County investigator William Ruppart, then assigned to the sheriff department's Sexual Abuse Against Children unit, had videotaped a twenty-minute statement from Tasha in which she repeated the same accusations she had made to Carnahan.

Ruppart's questioning of Amini was quite brief; neither man could understand the other. Ruppart confirmed that Amini knew the alleged victim, then gave up. "Our conversation was neither meaningful nor logical," he said.

Two days later, Amini was charged with four felonies: three counts of sexual assault on a child by a person in a position of trust, and one count of patterned sexual abuse of a child. Amini maintains to this day that he is completely innocent.

"This girl who has accused me, she is the same age as my daughter, and I see her with the same eyes I see my own daughter," Amini says through an interpreter. "How can it be reasonable to think that a man of my age would have the nerve to do something such as this while my own daughter is in the room watching? How can anyone believe such a story?"

Earlier this year, Amini celebrated his sixtieth birthday inside a Colorado state prison, where he is serving a twelve-year sentence.

Susan Wilson was the young-adult librarian at Bemis Public Library in Littleton in 1995 when she met Naim Amini's elder daughter, Mariam, who was then a student at Heritage High School. Mariam would do her homework in the library most days after school, and her father would usually come to pick her up. Every time he did, he would bring Wilson a piece of fresh fruit, as a token of his appreciation for helping Mariam with her research papers. Over the years, Wilson became a friend of the family and often visited their home for dinner.

"I am a parent of two daughters and a grandmother of two little girls, and I would not hesitate to leave them alone in the company of Naim Amini," she says.

Two weeks before he was charged, Amini had passed a verbal version of the test given to all applicants for United States citizenship. He'd studied for it by memorizing all of the hundreds of questions and answers in the study guides, including the names of all the presidents and the history of Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, the test had not required that he learn the basic elements of the American system of criminal justice, which differs considerably from that of Islamic nations, including Afghanistan.

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