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Trial opens for man accused in beating death of Somali cab driver

Deputy District Attorney Ilan Zur told the jury he has a slam-dunk case for second-degree murder against Daniel Russell.

Deputy District Attorney Ilan Zur told the jury he has a slam-dunk case for second-degree murder against Daniel Russell.

Mr. Russell, 22, of Arlington Heights, is one of four men charged with criminal homicide stemming from the Feb. 21, 2017, beating of Somali cab driver Ramadhan Mohamed.

Mr. Mohamed, 31, died three days later.

During opening statements in Mr. Russell’s trial on Tuesday morning, Mr. Zur described to the jury the brutal nature of the beating.

According to investigators, the four co-defendants called for a cab early that morning, and Mr. Mohamed, driving for Z Trip, arrived at Climax Street in Beltzhoover about 2 a.m.

Police say the plan was to rob the driver. Instead, the men pulled Mr. Mohamed out of the car and beat him so severely, Mr. Zur said, that a doctor will testify that his brain injuries are similar to what a person would experience if crashing a motorcycle into a telephone pole without a helmet while traveling 30 to 40 mph.

After the beating, Mr. Mohamed lay in an empty lot for about two hours before police found him. He was likely already brain dead, Mr. Zur said.

“They continued to kick and punch him while he was lifeless,” Mr. Zur said. “He got beaten so severely that his brain actually shifted in his skull.”

Mr. Zur said he wanted the jurors to appreciate the severity of the injuries because it shows intent.

“It wasn’t an accident. It wasn’t reckless,” he said. “He intended this result. This was clearly an intent to kill.”

Mr. Zur told the jurors that following the beating, Mr. Russell, who he called the “ring leader” that night, bragged about it in Facebook posts he wrote.

“He’s proud of the fact that he beat him,” the prosecutor said.

Later, after Mr. Russell was arrested, crime lab technicians tested the shoes they believed he was wearing the night of the attack. They found blood on them, and the DNA matched Mr. Mohamed.

“That is evidence Daniel Russell kicked Ramadhan Mohamed,” Mr. Zur said.

As part of the prosecution’s case, he continued, two co-defendants will testify against Mr. Russell. They include King Edwards and Hosea Moore.

In exchange for their testimony, Mr. Edwards is expected to plead guilty to third-degree murder, and Mr. Moore will plead guilty to robbery.

Mr. Zur acknowledged that both men have a motive to lie, but that the jurors ought to listen closely to their testimony.

“They’re the ones who will spell out for you how horrific it was out there.”

T. Brent McCune, who represents Mr. Russell, told the jurors that the two co-defendants “are getting away with murder, literally.

“They’re the only ones that really know what happened,” he said. “The commonwealth has to rely on two very suspect sources who are saving their own skins.”

He recounted for the jury messages Mr. Edwards wrote, including one where he said, “Yeah, I beat someone’s [butt] last night. Went crazy on dude. Let out half my anger.”

Later, he also wrote, “I think I killed someone.”

Mr. McCune called Mr. Edwards’ planned testimony “self-serving,” and said that Mr. Moore is getting an even better deal.

“You have to decide if they prove what he did.”

The fourth co-defendant, Christen Glenn, is expected to go to trial in late January.

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