BOISE — A prosecutor in south-central Idaho is refuting allegations you may have seen circulating on social media and conspiracy-oriented websites that three young Syrian refugees raped a girl at knifepoint.
Twin Falls County Prosecutor Grant Loebs said no gang rape occurred and no Syrian refugees were involved in a case involving children in a laundry room at a Twin Falls apartment building.
Anti-refugee activists argue police didn't respond quickly to the allegations and claim a boy videotaped the attack.
Several residents demanded more information be released during a Twin Falls City Council meeting last week and asked if the city was involved in a cover-up. Loebs denies the claims.
"No, for certain there was no cover up," Loebs said Monday.
Reports that the boys are Syrian are false, Loebs said. He said there is no evidence that the alleged sexual assault happened at knifepoint and said any online report that says this was a gang rape is false.
However, he said three boys who are not Americans by birth were involved in the reported sexual assault of a 5-year-old girl on June 2 at the Fawnbrook Apartments.
Loebs said the boys - ages 7, 10 and 14 - all allegedly participated in the assault. Only one, however, is suspected of having physical contact with the girl.
The two older boys are from the Sudan in Africa, Loebs said, and the youngest is from Iraq. Loebs said he doesn't believe they are recent refugees, but he said he doesn't know when or how they came to the U.S.
The 10-year-old and the 14-year-old were taken into custody on Friday, Loebs said. They were taken into custody a day after the prosecutor's office got the case and filed charges.
Both of the older boys have attorneys, Loebs said, and a judge will determine if they should remain in custody.
Loebs wouldn't give further details about the charges, saying records are sealed because of their ages.
During a packed house at Monday's City Council meeting, Twin Falls Police Chief Craig KIngsbury addressed misinformation circulating online and responded to the community's concerns.
Kingsbury said police officers, paramedics and other authorities responded to the original call in due time - and there was no cover-up.
"Detectives were on scene in short order of time," Kingbury said. "This was an investigation that was taken very seriously."
Some people expressed gratitude to officials at Monday's meeting for the way they have addressed the situation, but others were angry. They want to know why details about an alleged sexual assault at the Fawnbrook Apartments weren't released before now.
"If the community would have been addressed ... it would have been handled better," one person said.
One woman directly addressed the police chief and wanted to know how the sexual assault case will be handled.
"Are they going to be treated as Americans here in America?" she asked.
"I don't know how this is going to end up but I will tell you we are in America," Kingsbury said. "This is the American judicial system. That's the system that these offenders were put into."
Opposition to refugee resettlement has grown in Twin Falls amid national debate over vetting refugees fleeing war-torn Syria. Attacks in the U.S. and Paris have increased concerns.
Twin Falls has a refugee resettlement center, but no Syrians have used it. A petition seeking to close it failed to gain enough signatures to make the November ballot.