Two years ago, Hassan M. Gailani shot and killed two men in a Sterling hookah bar, leaving 11 wounds in the body of the friend he shot dead at the card table. This week, a Loudoun jury recommended he serve 77 years in prison on 11 felony convictions.
A unanimous, 12-member Circuit Court jury on Friday sentenced Gailani to 25 years in prison for each of two first-degree murder convictions and three years in prison for each of his remaining nine convictions, which included two counts of use of a firearm during the commission of a felony and seven counts of maliciously discharging a firearm within an occupied building. The jury convicted Gailani of those offenses on Thursday following a seven-day trial.
On May 14, 2018, Gailani entered Pharaoh Café with a Kel-Tec 9 handgun and shot and killed Ahmed S. Osman, 35, and Murtada A. Marof, 40. Osman, who Gailani had targeted, was killed immediately while Marof, who Gailani identified as having “nothing to do with anything,” fought for his life before dying in an ambulance.
Gailani believed he was drugged and sexually assaulted by Osman and another friend and had plotted to beat them up, but said it was not his intention to kill Osman that night.
Circuit Court Judge Stephen Sincavage instructed jury members to consider whether Gailani was insane at the time of the offense, which required them to determine if Gailani had a mental disease or defect and was unable to discern right from wrong at the time. If the jury had found Gailani insane, it would have been required to hand up a verdict of not guilty by reason of insanity.
Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Ryan Perry told the jury that the shootings weren’t a result of Gailani’s delusional disorder, but that Gailani knew exactly what he was doing when he shot the men.
“They didn’t deserve this. … They were just there to play cards,” he said.
Public Defender Genevieve Miller argued that Gailani was not in his right mind on May 14, 2018, and that he is now removed from that mental state. She urged the jury to hand up the minimum sentence—60 years, which would have kept Gailani in prison until he was 97 years old.
“The level of culpability is not that of a cold-blooded vigilante,” she said.
Osman’s cousin and sister, and Marof’s cousin and brother also told the jury how the deaths have impacted their lives and the lives of others.
During the trial, Gailani said the shooting was a result of a decade of pain that began when he claimed to have been sexually assaulted in Sudan in March 2008—which, he felt, gave him HIV. Although two HIV tests turned up negative results, Gailani said in court he was sure he has the virus.
He testified that in 2015, he believed HIV was transmitted through the air of a car into his friend’s eyes, which, Gailani claimed, prompted that friend to plot revenge against him. Gailani said his friend began attempting to cast magic spells on him. Gailani testified that his roommate at the time was working with his angered friend and that he would frequently find tree branches and small pieces of clothing in his bathroom, along with scratches on his car that looked like drawings—evidence he believed was related to magic.
The push for revenge peaked on Jan. 3, 2018, when, Gailani said, Osman spent the night at his house, drugged him and allowed Gailani’s angered friend into the house to sexually assault him while asleep.
Gailani said Osman and the angered friend took a video of the assault and were posting other taunting videos in a WhatsApp group message with their friends. He said that Osman’s new phone and car were rewards for helping Gailani’s angered friend sexually assault him.
A month before the shooting, after Gailani had moved to Alexandria, he claimed to have seen more branches and stones outside his front door, and claimed to have the feeling of something touching him. He attributed an April 25 incident within the confines of his home as a sexual assault performed through magic or by his friend breaking into his home.
Gailani testified that he was scared for his life, which is why he purchased a gun, along with a TASER and pepper spray, and took a firearms safety class in March 2018. Gailani said he never planned to kill anyone, but wanted to rough up Osman and the other friend so badly that they would confess to the assault.
On the day of the shooting, a little before 2 a.m., Gailani approached Osman and Marof as they played cards in the hookah bar. Gailani fired seven rounds, which killed Osman on the spot and left 11 wounds in his head and upper body. Marof, who had returned to America from his Sudanese wedding just two weeks before the shooting, remained alive until he died in an ambulance outside the café.
“He basically drowned in his own blood,” Perry said.
Gailani said he had no recollection of the shooting, but last remembers sitting in the café parking lot before becoming conscious again when the police arrested him.
When the arresting sheriff’s deputy asked Gailani if he was the one who shot the men, Gailni replied calmly, “yeah,” according to audio from the deputy’s chest camera. Gailani later felt remorseful for the shooting.
“This wasn’t my plan,” he said. “It was never my intention to kill him. … I still feel the guilt.”
Lisa Doll, a forensic psychologist with Loudoun County Mental Health, testified that Gailani suffered from a delusional disorder of the persecutory type.
“This idea that he has HIV is a delusion,” she said.
Both Doll and Scott Bender, an associate professor of clinical psychiatric medicine at the University of Virginia, said they felt Gailani was not malingering—or pretending to be delusional so he could use insanity as a defense in court.
In his closing argument, Perry acknowledged that Gailani had a mental disease but argued that Gailani knew right from wrong because he shot Osman for revenge, told a Sheriff’s Office detective a day later that he wanted the death penalty and said that what he had done was a sin. Assistant Commonwealth’s Attorney Angela Vernail said Gailani was a vigilante who executed Osman and knew it was wrong because he surrendered to police.
Assistant Public Defender Adam Pouilliard argued that Gailani didn’t know right from wrong, pointing out that Gailani felt as if he was being constantly monitored and that the sexual assaults were most likely delusions because they all took place when he was asleep.
“There is no real-world attack on Mr. Gailani,” he argued. “His mind is broken.”
In sentencing, Miller noted that Gailani would most likely never see his father again. But Perry asserted that while Gailani still has the chance to see his father while in prison, Osman and Marof don’t have that opportunity.
“Ahmed and Murtada will never see their families again,” he said.
Gailani’s formal sentencing will take place March 13.