The 14- and 10-year-old boys charged in a sexual assault at Fawnbrook Apartments have been released from juvenile custody, and federal prosecutors are urging the community to stay calm, stop spreading falsehoods about the case, and let investigators and court officials do their jobs.
“I understand that this was a horrible, horrible act but it doesn’t help the victims, it doesn’t help the process when people make false statements or make statements that may be threatening, or made to harass or obstruct those who are doing their jobs,” U.S. Attorney for Idaho Wendy Olson said in a telephone interview with the Idaho Statesman.
Olson said she chose to speak out Friday after hearing so much false information about the case spread throughout the state and nation. She said she understands people’s frustration that few details on the alleged crime have been made public, but Twin Falls police and the prosecutor’s office are following the law.
“Juveniles who are involved in criminal activity such as those reported in the Twin Falls area are afforded certain protections because of their age. That’s what the law is and we all have to follow that law,” Olson said.
Olson said her office is prepared to take action against anyone who threatens or harasses people or obstructs police or prosecutors in their work on the case. She said she’s spoken to Twin Falls Prosecutor Grant Loebs, Police Chief Craig Kingsbury and officials from the Department of Justice in Washington, D.C.
“We’re paying attention to activities in Twin Falls and stand ready to pursue it if we are needed,” she said.
Though the boys have been released, they still face juvenile charges that remain sealed under court order.
Few details have been made public because the criminal case against the two juveniles is sealed, as is typical in juvenile cases. But Loebs and Kingsbury took the unusual step Monday to speak out about the case to deny stories that were circulating on conspiracy websites and anti-refugee blogs that Syrian refugees gang-raped a girl at knifepoint.
The case has reignited new opposition to refugee resettlement in Twin Falls and led to a raucous City Council meeting Monday where residents renewed calls to close the College of Southern Idaho Refugee Center, accused police and prosecutors of a cover-up, and accused council members of allowing radical Muslim extremists to infiltrate Twin Falls.
Officials have dismissed those accusations and have tried to quell the outrage.
“There were no Syrians involved, there was no knife involved, there was no gang-rape,” Loebs said.
What is known about the case is that a 5-year-old girl was allegedly sexually assaulted June 2 at the Fawnbrook Apartments. After an investigation, two boys ages 14 and 10 were detained and charged. A third boy involved in the incident, age 7, was not charged. The boys are from Iraqi and Sudanese families, but it’s unclear whether they are refugees or how long they’ve been in the community.
Attempts by the Statesman to reach family members with direct knowledge of the case have so far been unsuccessful.
Olson praised Loebs and Kingsbury, the latter of whom spent 24 years with the Nampa Police Department — the last two years as chief — before moving to Twin Falls earlier this year. She said they are “moving fairly and thoughtfully in this case.”
Speaking generally, and not specifically about the Fawnbrook case, Loebs on Friday explained the process of juvenile cases and juvenile detention.
“Very quickly after a juvenile is initially detained, there are hearings to determine if that juvenile will continue to be held,” Loebs said.
“The prosecutor almost always argues they should continue to be held, while the defense attorney almost always argues they should be released.”
Loebs said it’s very rare for juveniles 10 or younger to continue to be held as their cases play out in court hearings that are almost always closed to the public.
Juvenile defendants released from custody are freed on what’s known as an “in-lieu-of-detention agreement.”
“This requires they go to juvenile probation and other agreements tailored to their specific case,” Loebs said. “This can include specific locations where they can or cannot be, monitoring guidelines, travel restrictions, no-contact orders, rules about who they can live with and maybe requirement that they don’t have internet access.”