FARGO — A federal judge has dismissed complaints from four Muslim inmates at the Cass County Jail who contended they were fed pork, in violation of their religious beliefs, and sought millions of dollars in damages.
Separate lawsuits were filed in 2016 alleging their rights were violated when they were intentionally and secretly served pork products by jail staff. Jail officials have said the jail modified its menu and recipes in 2015, eliminating all pork products from the inmate diet, “in part to assure that no inmates with religious restrictions would ever be accidentally or unknowingly served food that contained any trace of pork or pork byproducts.”
By November 2015, jail staff said, the menu was entirely pork-free.
The decision by a magistrate in U.S. District Court, dismissing all complaints consolidated into a single lawsuit, was announced Wednesday, April 18, by the jail.
“The Cass County Jail is pleased that these lawsuits have been dismissed,” Capt. Andy Frobig, jail administrator, said in a statement. “The jail provided thousands of pages of documents in the discovery process to defend against these claims, including copies of correspondence with the plaintiffs, menus, recipes, inventory of food products in stock, and invoices of food products that were delivered to the jail during the time in question.”
In their complaint, the inmates said the jail’s pork-free declaration was intended to deceive. “We believe their declaration of being a non-pork facility was a lie to calm our worries of being fed pork in any form,” the complaint said.
In an interview in July 2016, one of the plaintiffs, Uyin Alau, told Forum News Service that he and other inmates learned the jail was serving them pork from a Muslim corrections officer, who brought them labels and recipes from the jail’s kitchen that listed pork products as ingredients in inmates’ meals.
Until then, the inmates had believed they were not being fed pork, Alau said in the interview. The corrections officer who allegedly tipped off the inmates was not named in the lawsuit, which sought $100 million, a public apology and the firing of jail staff who were allegedly involved in serving the pork.
Alau, who claimed the inmates were fed pork during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, pleaded guilty to helping rob a convenience store in 2015. Other inmates who were plaintiffs in the lawsuit were Donivan Weis, who was arrested on drug charges, and Abdi Sahel, who was charged with simple assault, attempted kidnapping, terrorizing and robbery. Ashley Hunter, who was convicted of murdering two men in north Fargo, also filed a complaint.
In a decision dismissing the lawsuit, U.S. Magistrate Alice Senechal said the inmates had failed to follow procedures, including responding to information requests, and failed to meet deadlines.