When Jeannie Hobbs saw Mustafa Mohamed put a bag of trash on a carpeted floor at the Goodwin House, she told him to move it. But Mohamed, a housekeeper at the west-end retirement community, did not react in the positive manner that she expected from him. He snapped at her, saying that she was not his boss. A few minutes later, she told him that she had sent an e-mail to his boss.
“Oh boy, I hope my tires don’t get slashed,” she testified that she remembering thinking to herself.
But Hobbs, a human resources specialist at the Goodwin House, had more to worry about than her tires. About an hour after their initial confrontation on the east side of the second floor, she was in her office talking to her husband on the telephone. She was telling him to make sure that their children were doing their homework when Mohmed appeared in the doorway wielding a knife.
“How could you do this?” she testified he said to her.
In a preliminary hearing last week, she said he rushed toward her — slashing her face as she struggled against the 190-pound man. Recounting the painful details of the January 2005 attack, she testified she sustained injuries to her face, cheek, chin, neck, scalp and torso.
“He was slicing and stabbing,” she said, adding that he became distracted by a man’s voice during the attack. “I was pulled out.”
JOHN SPENCER was visiting his mother in the Cardinal wing on the second floor of Goodwin House when he heard a commotion. He reacted quickly, dashing down the hall toward the source of the screaming. There, outside a small office on the second floor, he saw Mohamed attacking Hobbs.
“He was cutting her face,” said Springer, a law firm administrator. “I yelled at him to stop.”
He testified how he pushed Mohamed toward the back of the office, freeing Hobbs — who was taken to the safety of an empty conference room. Springer said that Mohamed forced him down and began attacking him.
“I was on my back facing up,” he testified. “I was trying to grab and parry the knife with my hands.”
Springer pointed to a deep gash on the left side of his face, a lasting scar from the attack. He told General District Court Judge E. Robert Giammittorio that the attack left him with 48 stitches and several bruises.
“I was bleeding profusely,” he said. “I grabbed a trash can so I could bleed into that.”
Eventually, others were able to restrain Mohamed. Although he was initially found incompetent to stand trial, he has been receiving treatment at Virginia’s Central State Hospital in Petersburg. Now — a year after the attack — Mohamed has been declared competent to stand trial. After a preliminary hearing last week, a grand jury has indicted him on six counts of felony assault. A date for his trial will be set next week.
MUSTAFA MOHAMED is a native of Somalia. According to court records, he moved to America when he was 17 years old in the early 1990s — a time when the east African country was in the midst of a bloody civil war. He graduated from high school and attended college for one year. In 1998, he was the victim of a violent attack in San Jose, Calif., where he was beaten unconscious. The assault left him in a coma for three weeks, and he was hospitalized a total of three months.
According to interviews with the clinical psychologist who was assigned to evaluate Mohamed, family members pinpoint the attack as a definitive moment in his life. They say that the traumatic brain injuries that were sustained in 1998 were never treated, leading to a steadily decreasing condition. After the assault, family members told the psychologist, Mohamed’s behavior began to change.
“His mother has reported that he has expressed paranoid thoughts frequently since that occurrence,” wrote Ted Simpson, a clinical psychologist at Central State Hospital.
Simpson’s report noted that after he arrived at Central State Hospital in early 2005, Mohamed engaged in a number of psychotic episodes — drinking from the toilet and slamming his head into a television. He expressed fears that other inmates could read his mind, telling nurses that the voices in his head were threatening him.
“Everybody is celebrating my death,” he told one nurse, according to Simpson’s report.
Court records show that Mohamed embarked on a plan for treatment that included Haldol and Ativan, antipsychotic medications that seemed to improve his condition. But his behavior continued to exhibit symptoms of paranoid schizophrenia and depression.
“I want this to end,” he said during an examination in the summer of 2005. “I want to die.”
BY JANUARY 2006, after an adjustment in his medication, Mohamed’s condition began to change. He became more lucid, and he was able to speak rationally about the court process. In two separate examinations, he demonstrated an understanding of the role of defense attorneys, prosecutors and judges.
“His mood was OK, and his affect was somewhat flattened,” Simpson wrote. “Mr. Mohamed does not endorse thoughts and beliefs of a delusional and paranoid nature.”
Although Mohamed said that he was experiencing frequent hallucinations, Simpson reported that “he was not observed during the evaluation process responding as if to internal stimuli.” On Feb. 3, General District Court Judge Becky Moore ruled that he was competent to stand trial. Now, with a grand jury’s indictment, Mohamed is set to stand trial for six counts of felony assault — charges that could carry a maximum penalty of life in prison.
“The issue for the court isn’t whether you are a mentally healthy individual but whether you understand what is happening in the courtroom,” said David Wilson, a George Mason professor who studies the administration of justice. “Just because he was found competent doesn’t mean that his schizophrenia has disappeared.”
William Moffitt, a high-profile attorney who recently defended former University of South Florida professor Sami Al-Arian of financing terrorism, is Mohamed’s lawyer in the matter. After Friday’s preliminary hearing, he said that he was concerned about what would happen after the trial.
“If found guilty, he would likely stop getting treatment for the condition that everybody understands that he has,” Moffitt said. “So we have to find a way to stop that from happening.”