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Between December 1998 and January 1999, three armed robberies occurred at restaurants in Durham. All three restaurants were located relatively close to one another, and similarities in the robberies indicated that they were committed by the same person. The robberies all occurred late at night as the restaurants were closing, the suspect wore a ski mask to hide his face, and the suspect always forced the employees into the walk-in freezer. After the third robbery, law enforcement found and collected a ski mask near the restaurant.
One of the victims said he saw the robber before the robbery without a mask on. A month later, he picked Abdul Rasheed’s picture out of a mug book.
At trial, the State presented the one questionable eyewitness identification and the testimony of Abdul’s girlfriend, who said that on the night of one of the robberies he came home with several thousand dollars in cash with coupons from one of the restaurants mixed in. The jury ultimately found Mr. Rasheed guilty of three counts of armed robbery and eighteen counts of second-degree kidnapping. He was sentenced to between 43 and 57 years in prison, with a projected release date of 2049.
In 2016, as part of its cooperative case review with the Durham District Attorney’s Office, NCCAI began investigating Abdul’s case. In April 2019, an evidence inventory from the Durham Clerk’s Office indicated that it possessed all of the evidence admitted at trial, including the ski mask. Later, however, NCCAI learned that all of the evidence had actually been destroyed in violation of statutory law.
NCCAI also interviewed Abdul’s girlfriend who testified at trial. She recanted her testimony and signed a sworn affidavit saying that law enforcement coerced her statement by threatening that she would be charged as an accessory and then lose custody of her children. In her affidavit, she swore that she never saw Abdul with large amounts of cash and had no reason to believe that he was involved in the robberies.
Motion for Appropriate Relief
On March 1, 2021, NCCAI filed a motion on Abdul’s behalf asking for all of his convictions to be vacated. In light of the illegal destruction of the ski mask, the Durham District Attorney’s Office agreed to vacate the convictions relating to the robbery where the ski mask was collected and reduce the sentences for the other convictions to time served.
Although Abdul continues to maintain his complete innocence, he agreed to accept the State’s offer allowing him to come home immediately. On November 3, 2021, Judge Orlando Hudson granted the Consent Motion for Appropriate Relief, and five days later, after over 21 years in prison, Abdul was officially released as a free man.