Did the Saudi Consulate Help Suspect in Fatal Portland Hit-and-Run Escape the U.S.?
Abdulrahman Sameer Noorah, a Saudi national who was in the U.S. on a student visa attending Portland Community College, was under house arrest in June 2017 after being charged in the hit-and-run death of 15-year-old high school sophomore Fallon Smart. But just nine days prior to his trial and despite wearing a U.S. Marshals Service GPS ankle monitor, Noorah vanished.
Saudi authorities now admit that Noorah is back home, having arrived a week after his disappearance from Portland.
Local news outlets are reporting that the Saudi consulate may have aided in his escape by providing transportation and a false passport.
Fallon was killed in August 2016 while crossing the street at a crosswalk when Noorah drove around cars ahead of him that were stopped to let the girl cross. He was driving 55 to 60 mph in a 25 mph zone when he struck her with his gold Lexus and then drove off. Her head hit and cracked the windshield.
He later returned to the scene and was arrested. He was charged with manslaughter, reckless driving, failing to perform the duties of a driver (hit-and-run), and recklessly endangering another person.
At the time of his arrest, Noorah was driving on a suspended license for 17 parking violations and one previous charge of driving on a suspended license for not having insurance.
Considering him a flight risk, the judge in the case increased his bail from $280,000 to $1 million.
The Saudi consulate paid the $100,000 to meet the ten percent requirement for bail, and he was released on September 6, 2016.
As part of his bail conditions, Noorah had to turn over his passport to the Department of Homeland Security.
His attorneys, paid for by the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, told the court that Noorah had strong ties to the U.S. and was not a flight risk.
According to The Oregonian, Noorah had received permission to study for final exams on June 10, 2017, at the college's campus.
Instead, Noorah was picked up by a black GMC Yukon XL. The vehicle then traveled to a local sand and gravel business, where his GPS ankle bracelet was cut off and later found by authorities.
By June 17, Noorah was back in Saudi Arabia.
How was Noorah able to make it back home without his passport? The prosecutor in the case believes he had assistance from the Saudi government.
Shawn Overstreet, the Portland prosecutor trying the case, told the Washington Post that the Saudi consulate may have provided a fake passport under a different name to allow Noorah to leave the country. He may have left on a private flight, where tracking of passengers is less regulated.
But leaving in such a manner, or any manner, would have required considerable resources — money that Noorah didn't have.