Three boys have pleaded guilty to felonies in a case that drew national attention and involved a 5-year-old girl who was allegedly sexually assaulted on June 2 in Twin Falls.
All plea agreements in the assault, which occurred at the Fawnbrook Apartments, were approved by the victim’s family, according to a news release from the Twin Falls County Prosecutor’s Office.
“We agreed to the plea bargains. That by no means implies my clients were, or are, fully satisfied with the outcome of these cases or the prosecuting attorney,” Mark Guerry, the attorney representing the victim’s family, said in emails to the Idaho Statesman.
“After 10 months their right to some form of justice was long overdue. ... They were prepared to testify at a trial or enter into to plea agreements months ago. More importantly, no convictions or mere words in statements could ever mitigate the unrelenting trauma and grief their little daughter now suffers as a result of this vicious sexual assault.”
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Few details of the attack have been available because the juvenile court records are sealed — standard practice in Idaho.
Throughout June, rumors of the incident grew into a tale of Syrian refugees raping the 5-year-old at knifepoint, then sharing video of the attack with a parent, who celebrated with the boys.
Prosecutors and police said a sexual assault did occur, but many of the details — the knife, that it was a rape, sharing the video, even the defendants’ ethnicities — were wrong. Some people, including critics of the federal refugee program, were not convinced by those statements, and the case became another point of dispute in the national discussion about immigration.
Three boys, ages 7, 10 and 14, were detained. The youngest boy is from Iraq, while the older two, brothers, are from Eritrea, an African nation. They were previously described as being from Sudan; their family passed through Sudanese refugee camps, Slate reported last year.
The youngest boy was alleged to have touched the girl. The older boys were accused of using a cellphone to record a video of the incident, which took place in a laundry room at the Fawnbrook Apartments.
Tuesday’s news release did not specify which boys ended up pleading to which charges, and the defendants’ names have not been released — again, because of how juvenile cases are handled in Idaho.
One boy pleaded guilty to felony sexual exploitation of a child and misdemeanor battery. Another pleaded guilty to aiding and abetting felony lewd conduct and aiding and abetting misdemeanor battery. The third pleaded guilty to being an accessory to the commission of a felony.
The three will be sentenced “at a later time,” according to the prosecutor’s office.
When the news around the case became public and inaccurate rumors started to spread, city officials were soon deluged by complaints and questions from the public. A crowd packed the Twin Falls City Council chambers for one meeting in June during which Police Chief Craig Kingsbury spoke about the rumors and council members heard residents’ concerns, according to the Twin Falls Times-News. Emails to city officials included demands for answers and threats of violence — even wishing family members of those officials would be raped.
The management of the Fawnbrook Apartments filed to evict the families of the three boys later in June.
Some Idaho lawmakers, including Rep. Heather Scott, R-Blanchard, also got involved after hearing of the abuse. According to the Times-News, Scott wrote fellow lawmakers about her concerns regarding the investigation and refugee resettlement in Idaho. Twin Falls lawmakers including Reps. Stephen Hartgen and Lance Clow said they disagreed with her approach.