Charges dropped in alleged attack on Muslim cabdriver Mohamed Salim

Video report from April 30, 2013: Taxi driver Mohamed Salim says he was attacked by a passenger who called him a terrorist. A recording of their contentious ride was captured on Salim’s cellphone. (The Fold/The Washington Post)
November 14, 2013

Charges were dropped Thursday in the case of a Fairfax County businessman accused of fracturing a Muslim cabdriver’s jaw after a profanity-laced tirade against the driver and his religion that was captured on video.

After reviewing cellphone records and other evidence in the alleged attack, which some Muslim groups termed a hate crime, prosecutors said they did not believe Mohamed A. Salim’s account.

Commonwealth’s Attorney Raymond F. Morrogh (D) said he did not condone the language Ed Dahlberg used in the encounter, which gained national attention after the recording surfaced. But Morrogh said his office concluded that the Clifton man was innocent of the misdemeanor assault charge.

“Some people took this incident and ran with it to make political points,” Morrogh said.

The altercation occurred 11 days after the Boston Marathon bombing, and the Council on American-Islamic Relations had asked prosecutors to designate it a hate crime. It said it was one of a handful that occurred after the Boston attacks. Salim told his story to The Washington Post, CNN and other news outlets.

Salim said he picked up Dahlberg at a Northern Virginia country club in April. When Salim arrived, he said, Dahlberg was holding a beer, and Salim told him that he had to finish it before getting in the cab. Soon after, Dahlberg began to complain about the time on the taxi’s meter, so Salim began filming with his cellphone as a precaution.

On the 11-minute video, a man can be heard chatting normally with Salim, but the conversation eventually takes a nasty turn. The man asserts that most Muslims are terrorists and that the Koran directs Muslims to kill nonbelievers. He answers in the affirmative when Salim asks whether he is threatening him.

Near the end, Salim is heard asking: “Why are you punching me? Sir, why are you punching me?”

The passenger replies: “You’re a [expletive] Muslim.”

Salim said that he stopped filming shortly thereafter and that Dahlberg left his cab but then returned to punch him. But Morrogh said cellphone records show that Salim placed a call to 911 “just seconds” after the filming ended, which was not enough time for an assault to occur.

Morrogh also said that Salim never mentioned the punch during the emergency call and that a defense lawyer might argue that the hairline fracture Salim pointed out was an old injury. Morrogh said he is exploring filing a charge of making a false report.

Dahlberg, who has maintained his innocence, was vindicated, his attorney said. “The defendant was trying to egg him on,” said the attorney, John Kenneth Zwerling. He added later: “This was all about money.” Dahlberg declined to comment.

Salim, an Army veteran and Somali immigrant who lives in Great Falls, said he was shaken by the charges being dropped. He said he sticks by his account and will ask federal authorities to pursue charges against Dahlberg. He said he also plans to file a civil suit.

Salim previously said he had a headache, lost hearing in one ear and had blurred vision after the alleged punch.

“This is a hate crime,” Salim said. “If this is not a hate crime — God forbid.”

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