TWIN FALLS — A judge set a Salt Lake City man’s bond at a staggering $100 million after the confrontational defendant charged with aggravated battery asked for the high amount and told the judge through an interpreter that he “didn’t care” about the proceedings against him.
Twin Falls police arrested Mulugeta Zemu Mana, 32, on Thursday afternoon after they said he attacked another man with a knife near Washington Street Pawn. During his arraignment Friday on a felony count of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, Mana refused the help of an attorney and told Judge Michael Redman many times, both on his own in clear English and through a Tigrinya interpreter, that he didn’t want to be or need to be informed of the charges against him.
Twin Falls County Deputy Prosecutor Suzanne Craig requested his bond be set at $1 million, citing misdemeanor charges currently pending against him, a driving-under-the-influence charge from 2012 in Twin Falls and recent convictions in Salt Lake City for assault and public intoxication.
“His ties to Twin Falls are over,” Craig argued. “He says in the affidavit he’s homeless in Salt Lake City … he confessed to this crime to law enforcement and in that confession, expressed an intent to kill.”
When the judge and interpreter informed him the state was seeking a $1 million bond, Mana laughed.
“I told you I don’t care,” he said through the interpreter. “Now, you can even make it $100 million, I don’t care. I’ve told you from the beginning I don’t care.”
Redman did not hesitate to accommodate Mana.
“Very well, at the defendant’s request, bond will be set at $100 million,” the judge said sharply.
Mana is accused of attacking Samuel Gebreegziabher a little after 4 p.m. Thursday at a home on Third Avenue West, court documents said. Gebreegziabher told police he went to the home and sat down with several others in the front yard.
“When he sat down he recognized one of the individuals sitting on the bench as Mulugeta Z. Mana,” an officer wrote in a sworn affidavit. “Gebreegziabher told me that he and Mr. Mana came over to the United States as refugees about four years ago. Mr. Gebreegziabher also told me that there is no relationship between him and Mr. Mana, and that he only knows him through the refugee program … (and) has not seen Mr. Mana for over three years.”
The report did not say what country either man came from, but based on the Tigrinya language Mana spoke with an interpreter, he likely is from the African country of Eritrea or Ethiopia.
Eritrea broke away from Ethiopia in 1991, the two nations fought a war from 1998 to 2000 and the region has been in an almost constant state of upheaval since — conscription into a forced government labor program is the factor most commonly cited by asylum seekers who have fled Eritrea, according the Council on Foreign Relations.
Gebreegziabher told police that without provocation, Mana picked up a knife and attempted to stab him, court documents said. Gebreegziabher said he was able to grab Mana’s arm and avoid being stabbed in the stomach, but his right palm was cut in the struggle; Gebreegziabher then ran across the street to Washington Street Pawn where he asked the clerk to call 911.
During an interview with Twin Falls Police Officer Dzevad Mustafic — himself a refugee from Bosnia and Herzegovina — Mana told police he came back to Twin Falls from Salt Lake City to kill Gebreegziabher and two others.
“Mana told me that these individuals, including Mr. Gebreegziabher, have ruined his life and now he is homeless with nothing left to lose,” Mustafic wrote in his affidavit.
Mana also told Mustafic, “there are two ways to handling your issues in America; one way is through the courts and if that does not work the other options is to handle it yourself.”
Mana was arrested and booked into county jail Thursday, marking the second time he’d been arrested this week. On Wednesday, Mana was charged with trespassing at the Oasis Stop ‘n Go at 1390 Blue Lakes Boulevard North. In that incident, a clerk at the store said Mana came in Monday and “caused a huge scene.” He was banned from the convenience store Monday, so when he returned Tuesday, police arrested him.
At the time of that arrest, Mana told officers he was waiting for a Greyhound bus so he could leave Twin Falls, but that without money for a ticket, he was going to ask the driver for a free ride.
In court on Friday, Mana spoke clear English at times and appeared to understand English, but he requested the help of an interpreter.
“I don’t wish to say anything, because you’ve already charged me and found me guilty, so I don’t have nothing to say,” Mana said in English.
Later, through an interpreter, he said he claimed he didn’t use a knife in the attack and said he didn’t want an attorney.
“I’m only guilty the day I decided to come to this country,” he said through the interpreter. “The only guilt I have is the day I decided to come to this country,” he said again.
Mana is being held at the Twin Falls Count Jail and is set for a preliminary hearing Aug. 4.