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Spokane County drops rape charges against all members of Polish death metal band Decapitated

UPDATED: Fri., Jan. 5, 2018, 8:02 p.m.

Prosecutors have elected to drop rape and kidnapping charges against all four members of the Polish death metal band Decapitated, ensuring their eventual return to their home country of Poland after months of detainment in the United States.

Waclaw Kieltyka, 35, Michal Lysejko, 27, Rafal Piotrowski, 31, and Hubert Wiecek, 30, were scheduled to begin trial later this month in Spokane County Superior Court for the alleged gang rape of a local woman after their show in downtown Spokane on Aug. 31.

But on Friday – 11 days before the Jan. 16 trial date – Spokane County Deputy Prosecutor Kelly Fitzgerald filed a motion dropping all rape and kidnapping charges without prejudice, meaning the four men could be prosecuted in the future. The motion cites “the well being of the victim” and “in the interest of justice” as a reason for dismissal.

“This has been traumatizing to her,” Fitzgerald said of the accuser. “It’s obviously something that is a multiple defender case, and it would be a lengthy trial.”

Fitzgerald said while the state has a responsibility to the community in prosecuting crimes, in special assault cases they also have to be cognizant of victims, in this case a young woman.

“We’ve discussed with her and her advocates and feel at this time it’s best for her to heal,” she said.

The band’s attorneys said news of the dismissal was surreal, but expected. Steve Graham, representing Kieltyka, said that while he can only speak for his client, “everyone is relieved and they’re looking to get back home.”

Jeffry Finer, attorney for Piotrowski, said the accuser was heavily involved in the decision to drop charges. He said attorneys were confident the prosecution would drop charges once they had all of the evidence from defense witnesses, which included scores of concertgoers.

“A close review of the evidence is all it took,” he said. “We are not criticizing the county for moving slow. It just took a long time to get all of the evidence, all of the witnesses, and there were so many witnesses.”

Two weeks ago, Graham said “new evidence” came to light that “seriously cast doubt” over the state’s case, which consisted largely of testimony from two women who told police they were kidnapped and held against their will on the band’s tour bus after the show. One of the women was able to escape while her friend was forced to stay on the bus, according to the women’s accounts.

The woman allegedly held in the bus told officers she was brutally raped by each member of the band in the bathroom. She said they took turns forcing her to perform sexual acts. When they were done, they kicked her off, she said.

Later at Providence Sacred Heart Medical Center, police noted “significant bruising to her upper arms consistent with being restrained” and “small abrasions to her knuckles that were scabbed over.”

The victim’s friend was pulled over later that night and cited with a DUI. While in the back of the patrol car, she told the officer her friend was being assaulted, but without a specific location the officer was unable to help.

Attorneys for the accused have consistently argued their clients’ innocence. While he wouldn’t divulge the state’s reasoning for dropping charges, Graham said police officers may have been misinformed on what happens at metal shows that could explain the woman’s bruising.

“We subpoenaed the list of concert attendees and found numerous people who say that she was in the front row of the mosh pit and was climbing up on stage, and getting jostled about as much as anyone else there,” he said. “There’s no question from our perspective that the case against these four guys was falling apart.”

A representative from the Spokane County Prosecutor’s Office was not immediately available for comment.

Had it gone to trial, defense attorneys also had planned to cast doubt about the accuser, whom they deemed untrustworthy based on a previous encounter with law enforcement. In 2014, she admitted to lying to police about injuries sustained during an assault, when her boyfriend was accused of stabbing three people. She was injured by her boyfriend during a previous argument, police determined.

The band members have been out of jail since late last year, when bail was dropped and they were released on their own recognizance. They were ordered to stay within the state but were allowed to leave the county until ordered to return.

Graham said Judge Julie McKay’s decision to release the four was spurred by a letter of support from Polish politician Dominik Tarczynski, who contacted the court on the band’s behalf saying he urged the judge to “consider release of these men on bail until their charges can be resolved.”

During their release hearings, attorneys introduced written testimony from Andy Marsh, a member of Thy Art is Murder, which was playing the same show as Decapitated that night. Marsh said he saw the woman in the front of the stage, in an area commonly referred to as a “mosh pit,” where she was violently dancing, which could have explained some of the bruising.

Finer and Graham said the four are awaiting word from Immigration and Customs Enforcement as to when they can return to Poland. They’ve been in the U.S. since June, when their tour began.

While the band’s extended stay in the state was unfortunate due to the criminal trial, Finer said, they were grateful to the Spokane community for treating them fairly.

“All of them were saying they will always remember the kindness of the people here,” he said. “We made it as reasonable a two months as we could while the county took its time and did its due diligence, and determined correctly that the case needed to be dismissed.”