An immigrant defendant and a murky paper trail: Is he 20, or just 17?

EVERETT — It wasn’t your typical bail hearing.

On that point, the prosecutor, defense attorney and judge could agree.

The question before the court was one of age. Was the suspect, who’s from the African nation of Gambia, a juvenile or an adult?

It appears to be a case of conflicting and missing documents and perhaps a doctored birth certificate.

Ousman Faye is accused of possessing a stolen handgun at an apartment complex north of Lynnwood on Saturday. Snohomish County deputies said he was seen dropping a black gift bag containing the gun into a dumpster. Earlier, there was an armed robbery reported in a parking lot at the same complex.

Legal arguments occurred over two days this week with Everett District Court Judge Anthony Howard ruling in favor of prosecution that Faye should be considered an adult.

Prosecutors referred to birth dates gleaned from a U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement database and an Edmonds School District high school transcript. Both indicated that the suspect was born in October 1994. That would make him 20, and an adult.

Defense lawyers pointed to juvenile court records and a birth certificate listing a birth date that would make him 17, a year shy of entering the adult criminal justice system. In addition, a young woman testified that the suspect is her twin brother and they are both 17. She said her parents changed Faye’s date of birth so he would appear older and could take care of her.

They’d been in the same grade at school in Africa, but different grades in America, she said.

“This is a murky situation,” the judge said.

Both sides zeroed in on the birth certificate.

Defense lawyer Braden Pence said it should be used to determine Faye’s age.

“If you are going to err, err on the side of caution,” he said.

Deputy prosecutor Cindy Larsen described what appeared to be changes made to the certificate — changes to make Faye appear to be a juvenile.

“I believe this document has been doctored,” she told the judge.

Ultimately, Howard found that the evidence was stronger in favor of the suspect being an adult.

What sheriff’s office investigators sought but couldn’t find was Faye’s Gambian passport, the one used to gain entry into the U.S.

Even before this arrest, documents in juvenile court show discrepancies about the defendant’s age.

After a 2012 arrest, Faye’s date of birth was listed in paperwork as October 1994. In that same file, when he pleaded guilty, it was listed as October 1997.

After a 2014 assault arrest, the birth date was listed as May 1997. Juvenile court sentences tend to be shorter than ones in adult court.

Court papers indicate Faye graduated from high school in June 2014.

Faye pleaded guilty to assault in the 2014 case, admitting he took part in an attack on a college student in north Lynnwood. In a police report at the time, Faye was identified as belonging to a south Snohomish County gang.

Meanwhile, court papers filed on behalf of Faye and his sister in April and June urged authorities to allow them to stay in the United States as minors. The documents allege the pair could be mistreated if forced to return to Gambia.

According to the narrative, they were brought to America by their parents when they were young. Their parents moved back to Gambia but left them with people in North Carolina and later Washington state. Along the way, there were allegations of abuse and neglect. Faye spent time in homeless shelters. Neither he, nor his sister, have recognized legal guardians, court papers filed earlier this year say.

Faye remains in the Snohomish County Jail where he was booked for possession of a stolen firearm and unlawful possession of a firearm. Bail was set at $25,000.

Eric Stevick: 425-339-3446; stevick@heraldnet.com.

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