Skip to main content

'Man in Black' seeks to withdraw guilty pleas, sentencing canceled

  • Author:
  • Updated:
    Original:

A sentencing hearing for a serial bank robber known as the "Man in Black" was canceled Monday after the defendant requested to have his six guilty pleas withdrawn, the Pioneer Press reported.

Sheik Bilaal Muhammad Arafat, 51, who changed his name in July from Mark Edward Wetsch, handed a motion to the judge's clerk just minutes before the sentencing was supposed to take place. The motion claims he Arafat had been coerced into pleading guilty.

Arafat was expected to receive a 14-year prison sentence as part of a plea deal.

Prosecutors have until Dec. 9 to respond, the newspaper reported.

Arafat is accused of holding up 31 banks in a 2012 robbery spree, averaging one bank every eight days over an eight-month period. He ultimately pocketed $108,710.

Arafat grew up in a Roman Catholic family in East Grand Forks, Minn., was educated in Catholic schools, sent his children from his first marriage to Catholic schools and donated to Catholic causes. The Pioneer Press said Arafat is now an "ardent" Muslim who claims to be married to two Somali women, with whom he has three children.

He previously maintained he is being persecuted because he sympathizes with the terrorist group al-Shabab.

Earlier this fall, the Mankato Free Press reported that he asked the U.S. Marshals Service to address him by his new name. The story said that he has been held in the Sherburne County Jail in Elk River for most of the time since his arrest.

In April, Arafat pleaded guilty to five of the 13 robberies he was indicted on and admitted, in court, to the others. But in a legal memo filed Thursday, he told U.S. District Judge Susan Richard Nelson that a sentence that long would be "unconstitutional" and he may back out of the deal.

Next Up

E.J. Stephens

Michigan State denies Gophers' upset bid

Joey Hauser's last-second lay-up handed Minnesota its fourth straight loss.

unsplash online learning child student

Minneapolis schools go to online learning for 2 weeks amid staff shortage

The online learning period starts Friday and will run for two weeks.

pexels bar face mask covid

Vaccinated can spread omicron, so why are Twin Cities requiring diners show vax proof?

Starting next week, indoor diners in the Twin Cities will need to show proof of vaccination or a negative test.

Daycare child care

MN child care providers will no longer need to quarantine kids, staff exposed to COVID

The state has loosened the rule that previously required exposed staff and children to quarantine.

Jim Kaat

Twins to retire Jim Kaat's No. 36 jersey

Kaat is the 10th player in franchise history to have his number retired.

Screen Shot 2022-01-12 at 1.41.10 PM

Minnesota firefighter dies from COVID just days after his father

The 42-year-old leaves behind his wife and their 10 children.

Chet Holmgren

Chet Holmgren announces partnership with Topps

The Minneapolis native is the latest to capitalize on NIL deals.

bushmeat

Border agents seize bushmeat from travelers at MSP Airport

Officials say they've identified a trend of travelers bringing bushmeat into the U.S.

Related