Man sentenced to 17 years in police standoff, shooting case; his mother says ‘system has failed us all’
photo by: Sara Shepherd
Before Abdul Jalil K. Hussein received his sentence of more than 17 years in prison, his mother told the judge Monday: “Your honor, the system has failed us all.”
The mother, Grace Torko, said that in the months preceding the incident for which her son was sentenced the family had sought help from the community mental health center, another local mental health nonprofit and the Lawrence police. No one helped them, she said.
“(The system) failed Abdul Jalil, and it failed the community as well,” Torko said.
Hussein, 36, was convicted in connection with shooting at an officer during a standoff with police that occurred June 29, 2018, at his home on North Stowe Court in northwestern Lawrence. Multiple cases against him were resolved with his Oct. 16 no-contest plea to charges of attempted murder and aggravated burglary, both felonies.
The same day, Hussein had broken down the door to his mother’s house with an ax and shot out her TV, causing her to flee in fear for her life, documents in his court case alleged. Hussein had also been charged in a December 2017 incident in which he fired shots into the air outside his home; that led to an hourslong standoff with police, the Journal-World reported.
Prosecutors Alice Walker and Nicole Southall and Hussein’s appointed defense attorney, Hatem Chahine, agreed to recommend the maximum sentences for both charges to run consecutively for 208 months total, or 17 years and four months. The state dismissed two lesser cases, plus multiple other charges against Hussein.
Chahine said Hussein has been evaluated by two psychiatrists, and he has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder with psychosis. Since he began taking his medications regularly, Hussein sleeps a lot, but his mental health has improved, Chahine said.
Torko said that in the health care industry when patients put themselves or others in danger, a doctor’s order for treatment is requested.
“We handle people like this all the time,” she said. State records indicate that Torko is a licensed practical nurse.
After Hussein began taking his medication, he was “back to his normal self, like the son I raised,” Torko said. She asked that the judge consider probation with counseling and treatment, “not a life sentence.”
Hussein’s brother, Pharouk Hussein, also spoke at the sentencing. He said this has been very difficult for the family, and before “all of this” his brother was a great citizen.
Prior to the incidents and the “downward slope” of his mental health, Hussein was educated, and he had been working in health care until he decided to live off of his savings, his attorney said. Hussein had been an exemplary client, Chahine said, describing him as insightful and polite.
Walker and Chahine both acknowledged during the hearing that the plea agreement took a lot of work to negotiate. Because of a specific Kansas law, Hussein’s charge of attempted murder involving a police officer could have meant a mandatory sentence of 25-plus years, Chahine said.
Walker said she did take Hussein’s diagnosis into consideration, but she also spoke with numerous people involved in the incidents, including residents of homes that were hit by gunfire and Lawrence police officer Charles Stewart, with whom Hussein had exchanged shots.
photo by: Ashley Hocking
For the nearby residents who had been home when their houses were hit by gunfire, Walker said the incident had taken an unimaginable toll that the state could not disregard.
Stewart was present for Hussein’s sentencing but did not wish to speak. Walker said that Stewart wanted Hussein’s charges to reflect what occurred during the standoff, that he was “on board” with the plea agreement and that he thought the recommended sentence took into account the mental health concerns but also kept the community safe.
The Douglas County district attorney’s office announced in August 2018 that it had cleared Stewart and that he would not face charges for firing at Hussein.
Asked if he’d like to speak, Hussein answered that he thought everything that had been said was sufficient.
Judge James McCabria took a short recess to process what he had heard during the hearing and ultimately agreed to the sentence both parties had recommended.
He said he has to remind himself that we do not live and work in a perfect system. The circumstances of this case did not fit the mold of what is typically expected with these types of charges: Hussein had a family who loves and supports him, and he had no criminal history, McCabria said, noting that family members had been present for every hearing that he could recall.
He said it was fortunate that there were no physical injuries and that neither Hussein nor Stewart had been shot or killed. Regarding Torko’s statements about the system failing them, McCabria said he thought the community tried to address these circumstances, however imperfectly.
McCabria told Hussein that he was entitled to a 15% good time credit for both his sentences, plus a credit of 520 days, or close to a year and a half, already served. When he is released, McCabria said, Hussein will still have a full life ahead of him.
Hussein must register as a violent offender for 15 years after he is released from prison, and he will have 36 months of post-release supervision. McCabria said he would waive all court costs and fees, given the time Hussein was facing.
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