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Eye On Boise

Twin Falls council, public get briefing about incident that sparked false refugee rape story

The Twin Falls Times-News reports today that Twin Falls Police Chief Craig Kingsbury and county Prosecutor Grant Loebs briefed the City Council and public last night about the June 2 incident that led to false internet reports about a gang-rape by Syrian refugees. The incident involved three boys aged 7, 10 and 14 and the victim was a 5-year-old girl; the boys are from Sudan and Iraq but are not recent refugees, though they’re relatively recent arrivals in the community, having lived there less than two years. They are being held in a juvenile detention facility. Only the 7-year-old had physical contact with the victim; there’s no evidence the boys’ families were supportive of the alleged assault; and authorities have video of the incident shot on a cell phone.

Loebs said the College of Southern Idaho Refugee Center, which oversees refugee resettlement in the Magic Valley, did not resettle the boys involved and that the program has “absolutely nothing to do with this.”

Loebs said he suspects the false reports, which went viral online, were the work of a local group opposed to refugee resettlement who hoped to stir up trouble by claiming the incident involved Syrian refugees who committed a violent sexual assault, the Times-News reports. An incident did occur, Loebs said, and juveniles have been charged in the sealed case, but the details don’t match what’s being reported by anti-refugee groups.

The Times-News reported that Monday night’s council meeting was packed and many citizens spoke, including some speaking in favor of refugee resettlement and others opposing it and warning that resettlement was a federal government plot overseen by President Obama to infiltrate the United States with Muslims. One handed council members copies of the U.S. Constitution.

The newspaper reported that Loebs said, “There is a small group of people in Twin Falls County whose life goal is to eliminate refugees, and thus far they have not been constrained by the truth. They have not been constrained by the truth in the past, and I don’t expect them to be constrained by the truth in the future.”

The Times-News’ full report, from reporters Alex Riggins, Nathan Brown and Julie Wootton, is online here.

Meanwhile, the fact-checking website examined the original internet report of the supposed knifepoint rape, linked to by the Drudge Report, and declared it “mostly false.”

Betsy Z. Russell
Betsy Z. Russell joined The Spokesman-Review in 1991. She currently is a reporter in the Boise Bureau covering Idaho state government and politics, and other news from Idaho's state capital.

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