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Second-degree murder conviction upheld for Rochester man in 2018 shooting death

The Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled Monday, Feb. 14, 2022, that the conviction of Sao Yim Jr. would stand. Yim was sentenced in February 2021 to 15 years in state prison.

Sao Yim Jr.
Sao Yim Jr.
Contributed / Minnesota Department of Corrections

ST. PAUL — Just more than a year after a Rochester man was sentenced to 15 years in state prison for second-degree murder, the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled Monday, Feb. 14, 2022, the man's conviction would stand.

The high court denied the appeal of Sao Yim Jr., 28, stating that the district court did not err when it determined that three men who testified against Yim during his court trial and were witnesses to the March 2018 incident were not accomplices. Through his attorneys, Yim argued that the testimony of three men, who should have been considered accomplices, was insufficiently corroborated and therefore his conviction must be reversed.

Yim was found guilty on Oct. 2, 2020, in Olmsted County District Court of second-degree murder-without intent and ineligible person in possession of a firearm in the death Ahmed Muafaq Abdulhussain Al Naddf , 40.

Yim waived his right to a jury trial and instead asked that a judge to hear the case. He was sentenced on Feb. 8, 2021, to concurrent sentences of 180 months and 60 months in state prison. Minnesota sentencing guidelines require that Yim serve two-thirds of his 180 months in prison and the remaining one-third on supervised release.

Yim shot Al Naddf following a verbal argument over whether Al Naddf had hit Yim’s car in the evening hours of March 12, 2018, on Charles Court Northwest.

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Throughout the course of the week-long court trial in front of Judge Kathy Wallace in September 2020, about a dozen members of the Rochester Police Department, a forensic pathologist and the three men Yim's attorneys argued should have been considered accomplices took the stand as witnesses for the prosecution.

Testimony showed that Yim and three friends — Eric Lee, Traequan Bamlounghong and Deante Stanifer — went outside after believing Al Naddf hit Yim's car.

Lee testified that Yim pulled out a gun and said he saw Yim “twist over his shoulder” and shoot Al Naddf. Lee also testified that he was ordered by Yim to grab Al Naddf's phone after the man was shot.

Lee was the only other person charged in connection to the shooting. He pleaded guilty to felony aiding an offender and was sentenced in May 2018 to 10 years of supervised probation with a stayed 15-month prison sentence.

Bamlounghong testified that neither he, Lee, nor Stanifer had a gun on the night of the incident, but said he did not see Yim with a gun. Like Bamlounghong, Stanifer testified that he did not have a gun or know whether Yim had a gun.

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In arguing that the three men should have been considered accomplices because all three knew that Yim's vehicle had been hit, all three went outside to confront Al Naddf with Yim, all three were present during the commission of the crime, none of them did anything to stop Yim, they all fled and all three initially lied to police.

"However, none of these circumstances indicate that Lee, Bamlounghong or Stanifer played a knowing role in the shooting," the appeals court decision read. "Although all three were present during the confrontation with the victim, the evidence does not support appellant’s assertion that the four men went outside specifically to confront the victim. Rather, the evidence indicates that they went outside to investigate the collision. Additionally, only appellant appears to have spoken to the victim. No evidence suggests that Lee, Bamlounghong or Stanifer knew that appellant had a gun, let alone that he would use it."

Emily Cutts is the Post Bulletin's public safety reporter. She joined the Post Bulletin in July 2018 after stints in Vermont and Western Massachusetts.
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