Sterling Double Murder Case Goes to Jury

A 12-person Circuit Court jury began deliberations Wednesday afternoon to determine whether 36-year-old Hassan M. Gailani is guilty of murder in the 2018 shooting deaths of two men in a Sterling hookah bar, or whether he was insane at the time.

Gailani is charged with two counts of first-degree murder, along with seven counts of shooting within an occupied building and two counts of use of a firearm during the commission of a felony.

On May 14, 2018, Gailani entered Pharaoh Café and fired seven shots from his Kel-Tec 9 handgun, killing Ahmed S. Osman, 35, and Murtada A. Marof, 40. Gailani said he was trying to rough Osman up for helping a third friend sexually assault him, but that it was not his intention to kill him. Gailani said Marof had “nothing to do with anything.”

According to Judge Stephen Sincavage’s instructions, the jury needs to consider whether Gailani’s shooting of the two men was done with malice and/or was willful, deliberate and premeditated, or if Gailani was insane at the time of the offense.

If the jury finds unanimously that Gailani’s actions met all criteria, he would face a prison sentence of 20 years to life on a first-degree murder conviction. If it finds that Gailani killed the men with malice, but that his actions were not willful, deliberate or premeditated, a second-degree murder conviction would carry a sentence of 5 to 40 years behind bars. Even if the jury finds that Gailani did not intend to kill Marof, if it finds that he killed Osman with malice, a murder conviction would also apply to Marof’s death.

The jury also needs to determine if Gailani is guilty of two counts of using a firearm in the commission of a felony and if he is guilty of seven counts of maliciously discharging a firearm in an occupied building. If it finds that Gailani discharged the gun unlawfully but not maliciously, then it would need to convict him of unlawful discharge of a firearm in an occupied building.

The jury members could find Gailani not guilty of any offense if they find that he was insane at the time of the shooting. To do that, they will need to find that Gailani had a mental disease or defect and that he was unable to discern right from wrong at the time.

In his closing argument, Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Ryan Perry acknowledged that Gailani had a mental disease—delusional disorder of the persecutory type—but argued that Gailani knew right from wrong because he shot Osman for revenge, told a Sheriff’s Office detective a day later that he wanted the death penalty and that what he had done was a sin. Perry emphasized that Gailani did not say whether his actions were sinful during his testimony on the stand this week.

“He was absolutely able to establish right from wrong,” Perry argued. “Ladies and gentlemen, this was first-degree murder.”

Meanwhile, Assistant Public Defender Adam Pouilliard argued that Gailani didn’t know right from wrong when he shot and killed the two men because of his delusional disorder. Pouilliard pointed out that Gailani believed he was being constantly monitored and that he had been sexual assaulted by acquaintances on three occasions when he was asleep.

“There is no persecution. There is no real-world attack on Mr. Gailani,” he argued. “That is not reality, this is delusion … His mind is broken.”

The May 2018 shooting, Gailani said, was a result of a decade of pain that was first inflicted in 2008, when, he said, he beleived he was sexually assaulted for the first time in his home country of Sudan—an event he claimed gave him HIV.

Gailani said two HIV tests turned up negative, but that he was, and is, still convinced he has the virus.

He testified that, in 2015 in America, he believed he transmitted HIV through the air and into his friend’s eyes, which, he claimed, angered his friend and prompted him to plot revenge. Gailani said his friend began attempting to cast magic spells on Gailani.

Gailani testified that on Jan. 3, 2018, Osman spent the night at Gailani’s house, drugged him and allowed Gailani’s other friend into the house to sexually assault him while asleep. Gailani said he was again sexually assaulted on April 25, 2018, but that time, Gailani said, was most likely through magic or by means of his friend breaking into his house at night and leaving before he awoke.

Gailani testified that he was scared for his life and sought to beat up his friend and Osman, which is why he purchased the gun and took a firearms safety class in the weeks before the shooting. He said he had no recollection of the shooting, but last remembers sitting in the cafe parking lot before becoming conscious again when the police arrested him.

Lisa Doll, a forensic psychologist with Loudoun County Mental Health, and Scott Bender, an associate professor of clinical psychiatric medicine at the University of Virginia, both testified that Gailani suffered from a delusional disorder and that he was not malingering—or pretending to be delusional so he could use insanity as a defense in court.

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