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Judge dismisses gun-related charges against an Ethiopian in Utha

By Stephen Hunt
The Salt Lake Tribune

A 4th District Court judge has dismissed charges against a Utah Valley State College student accused of providing false information while purchasing two assault weapons.

Kidus Yohannes – a 20-year-old Ethiopian refugee who is a permanent U.S. resident – was charged with two third-degree felony counts of giving a false statement on a background check. He allegedly using a non-existent alien registration number.

In dismissing the charges, Judge Gary Stott found the background check form was confusing as to what information is required and what is optional, according to prosecutor Donna Kelly. The statute used to charge Yohannes applies only to “required” information.

But Kelly claims the only place on the form marked “optional” is for the applicant’s Social Security number.

Yohannes purchased four assault rifles last year from an Orem gun seller, according to preliminary hearing testimony. Two purchases in October 2006 were made using a different alien registration number than the one Yohannes had previously used.

Both numbers were approved by the Utah Bureau of Criminal Identification, the agency responsible for running background checks on gun buyers. Police who later checked with immigration officials found the second number did not exist.

Kelly said the Utah County Attorney’s Office had not decided whether to appeal the judge’s decision to a higher court.

Meanwhile, Yohannes, who remains charged in a credit card fraud case, will appear in court today 01/03 to ask for a reduction of his $250,000 bail, now that the weapon’s related case has been dismissed.

If Yohannes is released from jail, it is unclear if the guns – semi-automatic variants of the AK-47 – would be returned to him by police, Kelly said.

Prosecutors had requested a mental evaluation of Yohannes based on his alleged statements that he is “consumed by violent depictions of the death of U.S. servicemen, as well as human execution by gunfire.” He also made statements about killing a police officer, court documents allege.

In September, the court ruled Yohannes competent to stand trial.

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