A Washington federal district judge today declared a mistrial in the prosecution of a Somali man accused of aiding high-seas pirates. The jury in November acquitted Ali Mohammad Ali of piracy—the most serious of the crimes he was charged with—and, after more deliberations, deadlocked on two lesser charges.
Ali was sent back to jail following today's announcement of a mistrial in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia. The government has the option of retrying Ali on the lesser charges of hostage-taking that were the subject of the mistrial, but not the piracy charge. The next court hearing is scheduled for Dec. 18.
In late 2008, according to court filings, pirates seized a ship in the Gulf of Aden close to the Horn of Africa. The ship's owner paid a $1.7 million ransom for the ship's release. Ali was accused of boarding the ship two days after the attack and serving as the pirates' negotiator.
The jury began deliberating on Nov. 20. They found Ali not guilty of the piracy charge on Nov. 26, and were ordered to continue weighing the lesser charges.
Ali has been in jail for more than two years. U.S. District Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle ordered him released on Sept. 5, finding the government failed to prove he was a flight risk, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit reversed her ruling the next day.
Ali's lawyer, Matthew Peed of Clinton Brook & Peed, declined to comment.
Updated at 3:34 p.m.